Fujikawa Playing for Fun Pride Not Money

By Associated PressJuly 31, 2007, 4:00 pm
Reno-Tahoe OpenRENO, Nev. -- As Tadd Fujikawa prepares for his professional debut at the Reno-Tahoe Open, the 16-year-old is more concerned about acting like a pro than cashing a check.
 
'I think it's more of a pride thing for me than the money,' Fujikawa said Tuesday after a practice round at Montreux Golf & Country Club on the edge of the Sierra Nevada.
 
The 5-foot-1 Hawaiian was introduced to golf fans last summer as the beaming teen who became the youngest golfer ever to play in the U.S. Open. He missed the cut at Winged Foot but brought the same fun-filled demeanor to the Sony Open in Hawaii in February, where he become the second youngest player to make the cut at a PGA TOUR event.
 
Last month, he announced he'd received a sponsor's exemption and intended to turn pro at Reno, a tournament in its ninth year opposite the World Golf Championship, which attracts Tiger Woods and the other top golfers in the world to Ohio.
 
For a high school junior missing his first week of the new school year back home in Honolulu to make a run at a $3 million purse, he offers a remarkably mature take on what's most important in his life.
 
'I think it's more about me. I think that is more important than golf,' Fujikawa said.
 
'I think giving back to the community and treating people the way you want to be treated -- giving back to junior golf -- I think is really important,' he said.
 
'That is more important to me right now, to show I treat people very nicely. That's what my parents have taught me throughout my life... I'd rather have (fans) see that than say, `Oh, he's a really good player but his attitude stinks.''
 
But doesn't the $540,000 winner's check interest him just a little bit?
 
'Not really,' he said with a laugh. 'Maybe for my parents or my family. For me, I just want to go out and have fun.'
 
The Reno-Tahoe Open has served as a springboard for a number of young players who claimed their first PGA TOUR victories here -- Notah Begay III (1999), Chris Riley (2002), Vaughn Taylor (2004-05) and Will MacKenzie last year -- as well as tour veterans who ended dry spells, including Scott Verplank (2000), John Cook (2001) and Kirk Triplett (2003).
 
Taylor's consecutive wins at Reno helped propel him to last year's Ryder Cup team.
 
MacKenzie is only the second Reno winner to return the following year to try to defend his title because typically the victor moves up enough in the world golf rankings to secure a spot in the other weekend event.
 
It's all a dream for Fujikawa, who said the decision to turn pro was easier on him than his parents.
 
'Basically, I've always wanted to be able to compete against the best players in the world and hopefully beat them,' he said Tuesday.
 
'I think that is every golfer's dream, to be the best in the world. I felt that I could get further in my golf and achieve more and learn a lot quicker.'
 
'For me, it was not a hard decision. For my parents, they obviously are going to think about the down side of everything just to be safe. ... We just felt it was the right thing to do and the right time to do it.'
 
Fujikawa said he's discussed his decision with other players since he arrived in Reno last week to begin practicing for the tournament. One was Kevin Na, who also turned pro as a teenager.
 
'He basically said just to go out there and have fun. Don't take it too seriously,' Fujikawa said. 'It's really hard I think when you start playing for money. I'm not out there for the money. If it comes great. If it doesn't, that's all right.'
 
He takes the same approach to his height.
 
'Maybe I will grow. If I stay short, that's OK,' he said. 'A lot of people say, `Wow, you're a lot shorter than you look on TV. That's the main thing, as long as I look taller on TV.'
 
Fujikawa said one of the hardest chores will be keeping up on his studies while trying to get in as many tournaments as he can in the coming months.
 
'Actually I think school starts on Wednesday,' he said. 'That's not too good. I'm going to be missing the first week, so I'm going to have to catch up. Some teachers are kind of mad.'
 
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    Four players vying for DJ's No. 1 ranking at Open

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 8:41 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Four players have an opportunity to overtake Dustin Johnson for world No. 1 this week.

    According to Golf Channel world-rankings guru Alan Robinson, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm all can grab the top spot in the world ranking.

    Thomas’ path is the easiest. He will return to No. 1 with either a win and Johnson finished worse than solo third, or even a solo runner-up finish as long as Johnson finishes worse than 49th.

    Twenty years after his auspicious performance in The Open, Rose can get to No. 1 for the first time with a victory and Johnson finishing worse than a two-way tie for third.

    Kopeka can rise to No. 1 if he wins consecutive majors, assuming that his good friend posts worse than a three-way tie for third.

    And Rahm can claim the top spot with a win this week, a Johnson missed cut and a Thomas finish worse than solo second.   

    Johnson’s 15-month reign as world No. 1 ended after The Players. He wasn’t behind Thomas for long, however: After a tie for eighth at the Memorial, Johnson blew away the field in Memphis and then finished third at the U.S. Open to solidify his position at the top.

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    Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 4:00 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In advance of the 147th Open Championship, GolfChannel.com writers sound off on burning questions as players ready for a fast and firm test at Carnoustie. Here’s what our writers think about myriad topics:

    The Monday morning headline will be …

    REX HOGGARD: “Survival.” This one is easy. It always is at Carnoustie, which is widely considered The Open’s most demanding major championship test. Monday’s headline will be that the champion - pick a champion, any one will do - “survived” another dramatic Open. You don’t dominate Carnoustie; you endure.

    RYAN LAVNER: “DJ Bashes Way to Victory at Carnoustie.” If somehow a two-win season could be disappointing, it has been for DJ. He’s first in scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity from the rough. Those last two stats are the most important, especially here at Carnoustie, with these dry conditions. The game’s preeminent long-and-straight driver, there’s a better-than-decent chance he rolls.

    MERCER BAGGS: “Rahm Tough: Spaniard charges to Open victory.” Jon Rahm will claim him maiden major title this week by powering his way through the winds and fescue at Carnoustie.

    JAY COFFIN: “Thomas wins second major, ascends to world No. 1 again.” Shortly after The Open last year, Thomas rolled through the end of the PGA Tour season. This is the time of year he likes best. Despite a poor Open record the last two years, he’s not remotely concerned. He’s a tad miffed he didn’t win in France two weeks ago and comes to Carnoustie refreshed, with a gameplan, and ready to pounce.



    Who or what will be the biggest surprise?

    HOGGARD: Style of play. Given Carnoustie’s reputation as a brute, the surprise will be how the champion arrives at his lofty perch. Unlike previous editions at Carnoustie, this week’s dry conditions will promote more aggressive play off the tee and the winner will defy the norm and power his way to victory.

    LAVNER: Tiger Woods. This is Woods’ best chance to win a major this year, and here’s believing he contends. His greatest strengths are his iron game and scrambling, and both aspects will be tested to the extreme at Carnoustie, helping separate him from some of the pretenders. With even a little cooperation from his putter, he should be in the mix.

    BAGGS: Padraig Harrington. He had a good opening round last week at the Scottish Open and has some good vibes being the 2007 Open champion at Carnoustie. He won’t contend for four rounds, but a few days in the mix would be a nice surprise.

    COFFIN: Alex Noren. Perhaps someone ranked 11th in the world shouldn’t be a surprise, but with so much focus on some of the bigger, household names, don’t be surprised when Noren is in contention on Sunday. He hasn’t finished worse than 25th since early May and won two weeks ago in France. He also tied for sixth place last year at Royal Birkdale.



    Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?

    HOGGARD: Jordan Spieth. Although he was brilliant on his way to victory last year at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is not the same player for this week’s championship, the byproduct of a balky putter that has eroded his confidence. Spieth said giving back the claret jug this week was hard, but his finish will be even tougher.

    LAVNER: Weather. This might sound a little sadistic, but one of the unique joys of covering this tournament is to watch the best in the world battle conditions they face only once a year – the bone-chilling cold, the sideways rain, the howling wind. It doesn’t appear as though that’ll happen this year. With only a few hours of light rain expected, and no crazy winds in the forecast, the biggest challenge for these stars will be judging the bounces on the hard, baked-out turf.

    BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. The defending champion is still trying to find his winning form and Carnoustie doesn’t seem the place to do that. As much as he says he loves playing in strong winds, there should be enough danger around here to frustrate Spieth into a missed cut.

    COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. I hope I’m wrong on this, because the game is better when Rory is in contention at majors. Putting always has been his issue and seemingly always will be. While there isn’t as much of a premium placed on putting this week because of slower greens, he may still have to hit it close. Super close.



    What will be the winning score?

    HOGGARD: 10 under. The last two Opens played at Carnoustie were won with 7-under and 6-over totals, but this week’s conditions will favor more aggressive play and lower scores. Expect to see plenty of birdies, but the great equalizer will come on Sunday when wind gusts are forecast to reach 25 mph.

    LAVNER: 15 under. An Open at Carnoustie has never produced a winner lower than 9 under (Tom Watson in 1975), but never have the conditions been this susceptible to low scores. Sure, the fairway bunkers are still a one-shot penalty, but today’s big hitters can fly them. The thin, wispy rough isn’t much of a deterrent. And the wind isn’t expected to really whip until the final day.

    BAGGS: 12 under. We aren’t going to see the same kind of weather we have previously witnessed at Carnoustie, and that’s a shame. Any players who catch relatively benign conditions should be able to go low, as long as they can properly navigate the fairway rollout.

    COFFIN: 14 under. Walked into a local golf shop in the town of Carnoustie wearing a Golf Channel logo and the man behind the counter said, “It’ll take 14 under to win this week.” Well, he’s been here for years and seen Carnoustie host The Open twice before. He knows more about it than I do, so I’ll stick with his number.

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    Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty

    By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 3:16 pm

    Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.

    Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.

    This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):

    While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:

    Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.

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    McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:45 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.

    Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.

    “It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.

    “Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”

    He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.