Fujikawa shoots 62 to move into Sony contention

By Associated PressJanuary 17, 2009, 5:00 pm
2007 Sony OpenHONOLULU ' Tadd Fujikawa returned to the putting green late Saturday afternoon, hours after his 8-under 62 put his name atop the leaderboard at the Sony Open and showed everyone he was serious about becoming the PGA Tours youngest winner ever.
 
With the sun setting behind him, Fujikawas shadow stretched across the green.
 
At 5-foot-1, he never felt bigger.
 
Tadd Fujikawa shoots 62 in Rd. 3 of the Sony Open
Tadd Fujikawa had nine birdies in a third-round 62. (Getty Images)
Fujikawa made birdies on half of his holes for the best round of his life, pulling him within two shots of former Masters champion Zach Johnson and giving golf its biggest buzz since the Ryder Cup.
 
Johnson had a bogey-free 66 for the lead, but its so crowded at the top that a dozen players were separated by three shots, giving just about everyone a chance to win ' even an 18-year-old senior in high school.
 
Two years ago, I just went out there to have fun, said Fujikawa, who tied for 20th as a 16-year-old amateur. This year, Im out there to win, and I know I can do it.
 
Maybe the kid isnt kidding.
 
He sure made believers out of the hometown fans who stood four-deep around the greens to watch him put on a show. He opened with three straight birdies, made three straight birdies around the turn, then closed with back-to-back birdies and a salute to a gallery that carried him along with cheers and Hawaiis famous Hang Loose sign.
 
Even larger crowds are expected on Sunday when Fujikawa, who turned 18 last week and will graduate high school in May, will try to make history no one saw coming. He had never made the cut on the PGA Tour since turning pro after his sophomore year in high school.
 
Johnny McDermott was 19 years and 10 months when he captured the U.S. Open in 1911.
 
Is it really possible?
 
I think hes got a bright future, said David Toms, who eagled the last hole for a 65 to join the group one shot behind. Obviously, a guy that can shoot 62 on this golf course on Saturday of a PGA Tour event has got a lot of talent.
 
Johnson was at 10-under 200, one shot ahead of Toms, Shigeki Maruyama (68), Brian Gay (68) and Nathan Green (69). Fujikawa, who on Friday made the cut on the PGA Tour for the first time as a pro, was tied for sixth, two shots behind.
 
Awesome, said Charles Howell III, who had a 67 and also was two shots behind. I cant even imagine shooting 62 when I was 18.
 
Geoff Ogilvy, who won the Mercedes-Benz Championship last week at Kapalua and is trying to join Ernie Els (2003) as the only players to sweep the Hawaii stops, had a 68 and was in the group at 7-under 203 that included Adam Scott (66).
 
Fujikawa changed to his green-and-white Sea Island golf bag as a subtle reminder. He used it when he spent two days qualifying for the Sony Open last week, earning a spot in the field and respect from the other players.
 
Relieved to have finally made a PGA Tour cut as a pro ' he had missed in his six previous tries over the last two seasons ' Fujikawa backed up his claim that his goal was to win. He birdied the first three holes, and when he birdied the par-5 ninth to make the turn in 31, the large crowd created such a bottleneck that it couldnt catch up to him until he was on the 10th green.
 
He birdied the 10th from 8 feet, then chipped in for birdie on the 11th, running toward the cup with his fist extended.
 
Fujikawa played with PGA Tour rookie Matthew Borchert, who shot 73 and enjoyed the show.
 
What a player, said Borchert, who had never played golf in front of 100 people, let alone 3,000. I figured thats what I would get when I saw the pairing ' a lot of birdies and a lot of upbeat people.
 
Not even Michelle Wie created this much energy when she was 14 and shooting 68, the lowest ever by a female competing against men. Fujikawa is revered on this island for his hard-scrabble upbringing.
 
He was born 3 1/2 months premature, so small he fit into his grandfathers palm. He was given only a 50 percent chance to live and has been overcoming long odds ever since. Fujikawa qualified for the U.S. Open at Winged Foot as a 15-year-old amateur, and as he tried to rebuild his confidence last year, his father was indicted on drug trafficking charges.
 
Through it all, he has kept a bright outlook and charming smile.
 
And as he showed Saturday, he can play.
 
From a buried lie in Bermuda grass, the wind in his face, he powered his approach over a bunker and onto the green. And he finished in style, hitting 4-iron to 6 feet for birdie on the 17th, then lashing a 3-wood out of the bunker and onto the par-5 18th green for a two-putt birdie and the best round of his life.
 
The leaders were still on the practice range, but Fujikawa kept a share of the lead for 2 1/2 hours until Johnson got to 9 under with a wedge-and-a-putt birdie on the par-5 ninth. Johnson added another birdie on the 12th, then came in with pars.
 
Johnson, who won the Texas Open during the Fall Series, didnt feel like he had a big advantage with the 54-hole lead.
 
Not out here, he said. One errant shot can be a matter of a two- or three-shot swing. Thats the beauty of this course. It doesnt surprise me that its congested.
 
But was he surprised that an 18-year-old is so close behind?
 
Yeah, I heard, Johnson said, shaking his head. Thats very impressive. Eight under anywhere is really good. Ive seen him swing it and seen him putt it, and hes very, very solid.
 
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    Na: I can admit, 'I went through the yips'

    By Rex HoggardJuly 17, 2018, 3:35 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following his victory two weeks ago at A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier, Kevin Na said his second triumph on the PGA Tour was the most rewarding of his career.

    Although he declined to go into details as to why the victory was so gratifying at The Greenbrier, as he completed his practice round on Tuesday at the Open Championship, Na shed some light on how difficult the last few years have been.

    “I went through the yips. The whole world saw that. I told people, 'I can’t take the club back,'” Na said on Tuesday at Carnoustie. “People talked about it, 'He’s a slow player. Look at his routine.' I was admitting to the yips. I didn’t use the word ‘yip’ at the time. Nobody wants to use that word, but I’m over it now so I can use it. The whole world saw it.”


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    Na, who made headlines for his struggles to begin his backswing when he found himself in the lead at the 2012 Players Championship, said he asked other players who had gone through similar bouts with the game’s most dreaded ailment how they were able to get through it.

    “It took time,” he said. “I forced myself a lot. I tried breathing. I tried a trigger. Some guys will have a forward press or the kick of the right knee. That was hard and the crap I got for it was not easy.”

    The payoff, however, has steadily arrived this season. Na said he’d been confident with his game this season following a runner-up showing at the Genesis Open and a fourth-place finish at the Fort Worth Invitational, and he felt he was close to a breakthrough. But being able to finish a tournament like he did at The Greenbrier, where he won by five strokes, was particularly rewarding.

    “All good now,” he smiled. “I knew I was good enough to win again, but until you do it sometimes you question yourself. It’s just the honest truth.”

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    Koepka still has chip on his chiseled shoulder

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 17, 2018, 3:06 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Brooks Koepka prepared more for this Open than last year's.

    He picked up his clubs three times.

    That’s three more than last summer, when the only shots he hit between the summer Opens was during a commercial shoot for Michelob Ultra at TPC Sawgrass. He still tied for sixth at The Open a month later.

    This time, Koepka kept his commitment to play the Travelers, then hit balls three times between the final round in Hartford and this past Sunday, when he first arrived here at Carnoustie.

    Not that he was concerned, of course.

    Koepka’s been playing golf for nearly 20 years. He wasn’t about to forget to how to swing a club after a few weeks off.

    “It was pretty much the same thing,” he said Tuesday, during his pre-tournament news conference. “I shared it with one of my best friends, my family, and it was pretty much the same routine. It was fun. We enjoyed it. But I’m excited to get back inside the ropes and start playing again. I think you need to enjoy it any time you win and really embrace it and think about what you’ve done.”

    At Shinnecock Hills, Koepka became the first player in nearly 30 years to repeat as U.S. Open champion – a major title that helped him shed his undeserved reputation as just another 20-something talent who relies solely on his awesome power. In fact, he takes immense pride in his improved short game and putting inside 8 feet.

    “I can take advantage of long golf courses,” he said, “but I enjoy plotting my way around probably - more than the bombers’ golf courses - where you’ve got to think, be cautious sometimes, and fire at the center of the greens. You’ve got to be very disciplined, and that’s the kind of golf I enjoy.”

    Which is why Koepka once again fancies his chances here on the type of links that helped launch his career.

    Koepka was out of options domestically after he failed to reach the final stage of Q-School in 2012. So he packed his bags and headed overseas, going on a tear on the European Challenge Tour (Europe’s equivalent of the Web.com circuit) and earning four titles, including one here in Scotland. That experience was the most fun and beneficial part of his career, when he learned to win, be self-sufficient and play in different conditions.


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “There’s certain steps, and I embraced it,” Koepka said. “I think that’s where a lot of guys go wrong. You are where you are, and you have to make the best of it instead of just putting your head down and being like, 'Well, I should be on the PGA Tour.' Well, guess what? You’re not. So you’ve got to suck it up wherever you are, make the best of it, and keep plugging away and trying to win everything you can because, eventually, if you’re good enough, you will get out here.”

    Koepka has proved that he’s plenty good enough, of course: He’s a combined 20 under in the majors since the beginning of 2017, the best of any player during that span. But he still searches long and hard for a chip to put on his chiseled shoulder.

    In his presser after winning at Shinnecock, Koepka said that he sometimes feels disrespected and forgotten, at least compared to his more-ballyhooed peers. It didn’t necessarily bother him – he prefers to stay out of the spotlight anyway, eschewing a media tour after each of his Open titles – but it clearly tweaked him enough for him to admit it publicly.

    That feeling didn’t subside after he went back to back at the Open, either. On U.S. Open Sunday, ESPN’s Instagram page didn’t showcase a victorious Koepka, but rather a video of New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. dunking a basketball.

    “He’s like 6-foot-2. He’s got hops – we all know that – and he’s got hands. So what’s impressive about that?” Koepka said. “But I always try to find something where I feel like I’m the underdog and put that little chip on my shoulder. Even if you’re No. 1, you’ve got to find a way to keep going and keep that little chip on.

    “I think I’ve done a good job of that. I need to continue doing that, because once you’re satisfied, you’re only going to go downhill. You try to find something to get better and better, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

    Now 28, Koepka has a goal of how many majors he’d like to win before his career is over, but he wasn’t about to share it.

    Still, he was adamant about one thing: “Right now I’m focused on winning. That’s the only thing I’ve got in my mind. Second place just isn’t good enough. I finished second a lot, and I’m just tired of it. Once you win, it kind of propels you. You have this mindset where you just want to keep winning. It breeds confidence, but you want to have that feeling of gratification: I finally did this. How cool is this?”

    So cool that Koepka can’t wait to win another one.

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    Despite results, Thomas loves links golf

    By Jay CoffinJuly 17, 2018, 2:48 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Despite poor results in two previous Open Championships, Justin Thomas contends that he has what it takes to be a good links player. In fact, he believes that he is a good links player.

    Two years ago at Royal Troon, Thomas shot 77 in the second round to tie for 53rd place. He was on the wrong side of the draw that week that essentially eliminated anyone from contention who played late Friday afternoon.

    Last year at Royal Birkdale, Thomas made a quintuple-bogey 9 on the par-4 sixth hole in the second round and missed the cut by two shots.


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “I feel like I’ve played more than two Opens, but I haven’t had any success here,” Thomas said Tuesday at Carnoustie. “I feel like I am a good links player, although I don’t really have the results to show.”

    Although he didn’t mention it as a reason for success this week, Thomas is a much different player now than he was two years ago, having ascended to the No. 1 position in the world for a few weeks and now resting comfortably in the second spot.

    He also believes a high golf IQ, and the ability to shape different shots into and with the wind are something that will help him in The Open over the next 20 years.

    “I truly enjoy the creativity,” Thomas said. “It presents a lot of different strategies, how you want to play it, if you want to be aggressive, if you want to be conservative, if you want to attack some holes, wait on certain winds, whatever it might be. It definitely causes you to think.

    “With it being as firm as it is, it definitely adds a whole other variable to it.”

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    Reed's major record now a highlight, not hindrance

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 17, 2018, 2:46 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The narrative surrounding Patrick Reed used to be that he could play well in the Ryder Cup but not the majors.

    So much for that.

    Reed didn’t record a top-10 in his first 15 starts in a major, but he took the next step in his career by tying for second at the 2017 PGA Championship. He followed that up with a breakthrough victory at the Masters, then finished fourth at the U.S. Open after a closing 68.

    He’s the only player with three consecutive top-4s in the majors.

    What’s the difference now?


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “The biggest thing is I treat them like they’re normal events,” he said Tuesday at Carnoustie. “I’ve always gone into majors and put too much pressure on myself, having to go play well, having to do this or that. Now I go in there and try to play golf and keep in the mindset of, Hey, it’s just another day on the golf course. Let’s just go play.

    “I’ve been able to stay in that mindset the past three, and I’ve played pretty well in all three of them.”

    Reed’s record in the year’s third major has been hit or miss – a pair of top-20s and two missed cuts – but he says he’s a better links player now than when he began his career. It took the native Texan a while to embrace the creativity required here and also to comprehend the absurd distances he can hit the ball with the proper wind, conditions and bounce.

    “I’m sort of accepting it,” he said. “I’ve gotten a little more comfortable with doing it. It’s come a little bit easier, especially down the stretch in tournament play.”