Fujikawas Game of Inches

By Brian HewittJanuary 19, 2009, 5:00 pm
There are no official records on this sort of thing. How could there be?
 
But the buzz of the weekend in the golf world was the 62 local hero Tadd Fujikawa carved out of the tree-lined fairways and tiny greens at Waialae Country Club Saturday in the third round of the Sony Open.
 
In short, the 5-foot-1 Fujikawa almost shot his height. In inches.
 
The explosive young Hawaiian is 61 inches tall. One more birdie somewhere Saturday and he would have been the shortest player, in anybodys memory, to shoot his height in inches, in a sanctioned professional event.
 
Tadd Fujikawa shoots 62 in Rd. 3 of the Sony Open
Tadd Fujikawa had nine birdies in a third-round 62. (Getty Images)
All kinds of players on the Champions Tour have shot their age. Its a semi-regular, and not insignificant, occurrence on that circuit for players in their mid-60s to fire a round in the mid-60s. Well-preserved top amateurs with polished short games shoot their age all the time.
 
But were talking about shooting your height here. And the more vertically-challenged you are, the more difficult it becomes.
 
Any self-respecting amateur can shoot his height. Take a 6-foot-5 guy with a five handicap ' the woods are full of them. All he has to do is post 77 and he has shot his height in inches.
 
But, to repeat, if you are 5-foot-1, you are 61 inches tall. Shooting your height becomes quite a different proposition. Annika Sorenstam came close, sort of, when she hung that 59 on the board at Moon Valley in Arizona eight years ago. But the LPGA media guide lists Annika at 5-foot-6. Thats 66 inches tall. Shes posted that number hundreds of times. To shoot 59 and your height, youd have to be 4-feet-11.
 
The PGA Tour lists Tiger Woods height at 6-foot-1. Thats 73 inches. Any day he doesnt shoot his height is breaking news.
 
But 18-year-old Fujikawa, the little big man who showed us once again this week that there are compelling stories even without the rehabbing Woods around, is a different story. Such a different story.
 
His Saturday 62 was three strokes better than his previous low round in any tournament. It was also one shot off David Toms competitive course record at Waialae and it left Fujikawa just two back of 54-hole leader Zach Johnson.
 
When he woke up Sunday morning in Hawaii Fujikawa was staring at the prospect of becoming the youngest winner in PGA Tour history and the first Monday qualifier to win on Tour in 23 years.
 
In 1911 Johnny McDermott beat everybody at the U.S. Open at the age of 19 years and 11 months. In 1986 Fred Wadsworth came through Monday qualifying at the Southern Open to capture that event.
 
You want more perspective: Fujikawa is younger than Michelle Wie. He has his own fan page on the Internet. He was born three months premature, weighing in at less than two pounds. Doctors told his parents he had a 50-50 chance of surviving.
 
More recently, Fujikawa has had to deal with the very public indictment handed down against his father, who stands charged with selling methamphetamines to undercover police officers on two different occasions.
 
When Fujikawa qualified for the 2006 U.S. Open he was the youngest player since 1941 to do so. When he made the cut at the 2007 Sony Open he was the youngest to do so on the PGA Tour in 50 years.
 
Notice a pattern here?
 
The barriers Fujikawa has been knocking down are all about age, not about height. Years ago when they asked a Chicago Bears scout named Bill Tobin if 5-foot-10 Walter Payton was tall enough to play in the NFL, Tobin replied that the powerfully-built Payton was a big man who just happened to be short. Payton went on to gain more NFL rushing yards than anybody had before him.
 
Fujikawa, an accomplished martial arts athlete, is also built like a brick house. He is long off the tee. And he makes you think about what another Chicago Bear all-pro, Dan Hampton, once amusingly uttered: Strength has never been my weakness.
 
Sunday at Waialae the magic disappeared for Fujikawa the same way it does, at one time or another, for everybody who plays the game. Four bogeys led to a 73, which led to a disappointing tie for 32nd.
 
It just didnt happen, Fujikawa said afterward. The feeling was definitely different.
 
But so, too, now is the view from the outside looking in at Fujikawa. Fewer people are criticizing his decision to forego college and turn professional. He has a team of instructors and advisers in place. And suddenly he is an even more attractive name for tournament directors to get on their sponsors exemption lists.
 
Johnson was the big winner at the Sony Open Sunday, grinding out his fifth Tour victory. But Fujikawa was a winner, too. He just comes in a smaller er shorter package.
 
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Minjee Lee co-leads Walmart NW Arkansas Championship

By Associated PressJune 24, 2018, 12:25 am

ROGERS, Ark. - Minjee Lee wasn't all that concerned when she missed her first cut of the year this month at the ShopRite LPGA Classic.

The ninth-ranked Australian has certainly looked at ease and back in form at Pinnacle Country Club in her first event since then.

Lee and Japan's Nasa Hataoka each shot 6-under 65 on Saturday to share the second-round lead in the NW Arkansas Championship 13-under 129. Lee is chasing her fifth victory since turning pro three years ago. It's also an opportunity to put any lingering frustration over that missed cut two weeks ago behind her for good.

''I didn't particularly hit it bad, even though I missed the cut at ShopRite, I just didn't really hole any putts,'' Lee said. ''I'd been hitting it pretty solid going into that tournament and even into this tournament, too. Just to see a couple putts roll in has been nice.''

The 22-year-old Lee needed only 24 putts during her opening 64 on Friday, helping her to match the low round of her career. Despite needing 28 putts Saturday, she still briefly took the outright lead after reaching as low as 14 under after a birdie on the par-5 seventh.


Full-field scores from the Walmart Arkansas Championship


Lee missed the green on the par-4 ninth soon thereafter to lead to her only bogey of the day and a tie with the 19-year-old Hataoka, who is in pursuit of her first career win.

Hataoka birdied six of eight holes midway through her bogey-free round on Saturday. It was yet another stellar performance from the Japanese teenager, who has finished in the top 10 in four of her last five tournaments and will be a part of Sunday's final pairing.

''I try to make birdies and try to be under par, that's really the key for me to get a top ten,'' Hataoka said. ''Golf is just trying to be in the top 10 every single week, so that's the key.''

Third-ranked Lexi Thompson matched the low round of the day with a 64 to get to 11 under. She hit 17 of 18 fairways and shot a 5-under 30 on her opening nine, The American is in search of her first win since September in the Indy Women in Tech Championship.

Ariya Jutanugarn and Celine Boutier were 10 under.

First-round leader Gaby Lopez followed her opening 63 with a 75 to drop to 4 under. Fellow former Arkansas star Stacy Lewis also was 4 under after a 72.

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Henley will try to put heat on Casey in final round

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:55 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – While it will be a tall task for anyone to catch Paul Casey at the Travelers Championship, the man who will start the round most within reach of the Englishman is Russell Henley.

Henley was in the penultimate group at TPC River Highlands on Saturday, but he’ll now anchor things during the final round as he looks to overcome a four-shot deficit behind Casey. After a 3-under 67, Henley sits at 12 under through 54 holes and one shot clear of the three players tied for third.

Henley closed his third round with a run of five straight pars, then became the beneficiary of a pair of late bogeys from Brian Harman that left Henley alone in second place.


Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


“Could have made a couple more putts, but to end with two up-and-downs like that was nice,” Henley said. “I felt a little bit weird over the shots coming in, put me in some bad spots. But it was nice to have the short game to back me up.”

Henley has won three times on Tour, most recently at the 2017 Houston Open, and he cracked the top 25 at both the Masters and U.S. Open. But with Casey riding a wave of confidence and coming off an 8-under 62 that marked the best round of the week, he knows he’ll have his work cut out for him in order to nab trophy No. 4.

“I think I can shoot a low number on this course. You’ve got to make the putts,” Henley said. “I’m definitely hitting it well enough, and if I can get a couple putts to fall, that would be good. But I can’t control what he’s doing. I can just try to keep playing solid.”

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Back from back injury, Casey eyeing another win

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:36 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Given his four-shot cushion at the Travelers Championship and his recent victory at the Valspar Championship, it’s easy to forget that Paul Casey hit the disabled list in between.

Casey had to withdraw from The Players Championship because of a bad back, becoming the only player in the top 50 in the world rankings to miss the PGA Tour’s flagship event. He flew back to England to get treatment, and Casey admitted that his T-20 finish at last month’s BMW PGA Championship came while he was still on the mend.

“I wasn’t 100 percent fit with the back injury, which was L-4, L-5, S-1 (vertebrae) all out of place,” Casey said. “Big inflammation, nerve pain down the leg and up the back. I didn’t know what was going on.”


Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


Thanks in large part to a combination of MRIs, back adjustments and anti-inflammatories, Casey finally turned the corner. His T-16 finish at last week’s U.S. Open was the first event for which he felt fully healthy since before the Players, and he’s on the cusp of a second title since March after successfully battling through the injury.

“We thought we were fixing it, but we weren’t. We were kind of hitting the effects rather than the cause,” Casey said. “Eventually we figured out the cause, which was structural.”

Casey started the third round at TPC River Highlands two shots off the lead, but he’s now four clear of Russell Henley after firing an 8-under 62 that marked the low round of the week.

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Bubba thinks he'll need a Sunday 60 to scare Casey

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:15 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Perhaps moreso than at most PGA Tour venues, a low score is never really out of reach at TPC River Highlands. Positioned as a welcome change of pace after the U.S. Open, the Travelers Championship offers a lush layout that often pushes the balance much closer to reward than risk.

This is where Jim Furyk shot a 58 on the par-70 layout two years ago – and he didn’t even win that week. So even though Paul Casey enters the final round with a commanding four-shot lead, there’s still plenty of hope for the chase pack that something special could be in store.

Count Bubba Watson among the group who still believe the title is up for grabs – even if it might require a Herculean effort, even by his standards.


Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


Watson has won the Travelers twice, including in a 2015 playoff over Casey. But starting the final round in a large tie for sixth at 10 under, six shots behind Casey, he estimates that he’ll need to flirt with golf’s magic number to give the Englishman something to worry about.

“My 7 under yesterday, I need to do better than that. I’m going to have to get to like 10 [under],” Watson said. “The only beauty is, getting out in front, you have a chance to put a number up and maybe scare them. But to scare them, you’re going to have to shoot 10 under at worst, where I’m at anyway.”

Watson started the third round three shots off the lead, and he made an early move with birdies on Nos. 1 and 2 en route to an outward 32. The southpaw couldn’t sustain that momentum, as bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17 turned a potential 65 into a relatively disappointing 67.

“Bad decision on the par-3, and then a very tough tee shot for me on 17, and it just creeped into the bunker,” Watson said. “Just, that’s golf. You have mistakes every once in a while.”