Wed, Jan 17, 2007 - Page 18 News List

Fujikawa enjoys accolades, attention from Sony splash

AP , HONOLULU

Tadd Fujikawa hits out of a bunker on the 11th hole during the final round of the Sony Open on Sunday at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu, Hawaii.

PHOTO: AFP

The e-mail arrived two hours before Tadd Fujikawa teed off in the final round of the Sony Open. It was from a marketing agency, offering expert opinion on the teen's endorsement potential.

Five days earlier, hardly anyone knew who he was.

Five years from now, Fujikawa, 16, might only be a trivia question.

All that anyone knows at the moment -- and probably won't soon forget -- is that the 1.55m schoolboy with a big heart and an infectious smile made golf fun last week at the Sony Open in Hawaii.

He amazed even himself by becoming the youngest player in 50 years to make the cut on the US PGA Tour. He shot consecutive rounds of 66 to get his name on the first page of the leader board and finished with a respectable 72 to tie for 20th.

Six-time major champion Nick Faldo told him he had the game to compete on the US tour.

"I thought that was really nice of him to say that," Fujikawa said. "That really motivates me right there. Now I know that I can play against the top PGA pros and compete with them. Not only play against them and do very well, but I can actually beat some of them."

The proof could be found on the scoreboard.

He was one shot better than John Daly, two better than Vijay Singh.

Fujikawa is the hottest golf commodity in Hawaii, making the island forget for the moment about another teenager, Michelle Wie. She sent the golf world into a frenzy at the same tournament four years ago when she shot 68 and missed the cut by one shot at age 14.

But when Fujikawa returns to Moanalua High School, it might not be a bad idea to study up on his history.

One week doesn't make a career, especially in golf.

Remember Ty Tryon?

He was 16 when he qualified for the Honda Classic, made the cut with rounds of 67-73 and went on to tie for 39th.

Later that year at the BC Open, he led after the first round before finishing in a tie for 37th. Then he went through three stages of Q-school and earned his PGA Tour card. And he hasn't been heard from since.

Tiger Woods celebrated Tryon's feat at the Honda Classic, but he issued a caution that is still true today.

"Anybody can have a great week," Woods said in March 2001. "Can you repeat it? That's the key. There are so many times that players have gone out here and played well one week and then they're gone."

It is tough to use Wie as a comparison because she dabbles on more than one tour. Against women, she is often atop the leader board. Against the men, she is making a habit of finishing last, or close to it.

But there are similarities between the two teens from Hawaii.

Wie had no worries and no fear when she first played the Sony Open in 2004. It wasn't a job, it was a dream.

And it was fun. Wie played 18 holes every day at Waialae and even when she teed off in the morning, she hung around until late afternoon on the putting green or on the practice range.

That was Fujikawa last week at Waialae.

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