Fujikawa headed for another island

HONOLULU (AP) — Tadd Fujikawa doesn't get many opportunities on the PGA Tour these days, so it was disappointing for the 19-year-old from Hawaii to fail to break par in both rounds and miss the cut in the Sony Open.

Next up is a big move, from one island to another, and a chance for Fujikawa to experience life on the tour.

Just not the PGA Tour.

Fujikawa has been spending most of his time at Sea Island in Georgia working with Todd Anderson and the stable of coaches who also work with Zach Johnson, Jonathan Byrd and others. He has signed up for eGolf Professional Tour - formerly the Tar Heel Tour - which features an 18-tournament schedule from February to October.

The membership fee is $2,000, and it cost $1,110 to enter each tournament, which is roughly last-place money. The tour pays the entry fee for PGA Tour qualifying for the top 20 players on its money list.

"Just try to go out there and play as much as I can and get some good experience playing tournaments," Fujikawa said.

Leaving paradise won't be terribly difficult, for Fujikawa and his mother, Lori, have rented a house at Sea Island for the last few years. Besides, an island is an island, right?

"It's sort of like this, except the water is kind of ... brown, to stay the least," Fujikawa said with a laugh. "I don't know, I never really went in the water there. I don't think I want to. Usually, if you can't see the bottom, that's not a good thing."

The golf? That's a different story.

"All of the tour pros there, and Davis (Love) and J-Byrd and all of those guys ... it's a good atmosphere," he said. "It really helps."

ZACH'S BIG BREAK: Zach Johnson was headed home from two weeks in Hawaii and might not resurface again until Arizona, giving him a full month away from the PGA Tour.

The former Masters champion played the Shark Shootout and the Chevron World Challenge in December and believes his game is sharp. He wants to concentrate heavily on the Florida swing, and doesn't want to overdo it on the West Coast. Of course, that would mean missing Riviera, one of his favorite stops.

"I just think it's the best thing to do," Johnson said. "I've talked to my counsel on that, and that's kind of how we are pointing right now. I don't think I can hit it hard if I don't take that time off."

Johnson also took a month off in 2008, returning to Riviera (the schedule was different that year) and the Match Play. He didn't win that year until the Fall Series, although that was the year after he won the Masters and he was coping with being a first-time major winner.

What he recalls about that year was being ready to play.

"I learned a lot in '08," Johnson said. "I took four weeks off in a row, and then I took six weeks off at the end of the year. I don't have the itch to play very often, and I had it. So I'm going to get that itch."

GLOBAL GOLF: The field was particularly strong at the Sony Open, with the winner to receive 50 world ranking points. That's up from last year, and is the equivalent to the field at the AT&T National last summer at Congressional.

PGA Tour points will dip significant next week with so many highly ranked players at Abu Dhabi, and none of the top 30 in the world expected to play at the Bob Hope Classic.

Chalk that up to more PGA Tour players taking up membership in Europe, and appearance money available in the Middle East.

Ernie Els wonders how long that will last.

"It will be interesting to see if they sustain that," he said, referring to travel habits of U.S.-based players. "Myself and Vijay did it for 15 years, and then he kind of stopped doing that because he came to live over here."

For players like Els, and several Europeans, traveling is simply a way of life, not a burden.

His global schedule has been questioned over the years, and Els jokingly said he might have done things differently had he won more than three majors.

"No, I come from South Africa," he said. "I've gotten this question my whole career. I don't think I would have done it any differently. That's just the way we were - we are. Gary Player was that way because he started in South Africa. And he started spreading his wings, I just kind of followed suit."

ANATOMY OF AN 8: For a guy whose young PGA Tour career has been solid but not spectacular, John Merrick received quite the perk when Nick Watney invited him to be his partner in the World Cup last fall in China.

The only bad memory was an 8 on a par 5. That's not unusual, except that it happened in the better-ball format.

"It would taken an hour for me to explain the comedy of errors we made," Merrick said. "We were just shaking our heads."

He at least offered an abridged version.

In short, Watney was in a bunker off the tee and laid up to 80 yards, in good shape. Merrick went for the green in two with a hybrid, leaks it a little right and goes into the water. Watney had 65 yards to the front of the green and it went 64 yards, into mucky grass near a lake. He tries to play out of the hazard and whiffs, then takes a drop and is on his way to an 8.

As for Merrick? He took his drop, caught a flier lie and sailed fourth shot over the green into a bunker, short-siding himself. He chunks his bunker shot, chips to 10 feet and misses the putt.

Merrick was first in the cup, so he got credit for the 8.

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