Fujikawa returns to Sony Open as a pro

HONOLULU (AP) — One putt gave Tadd Fujikawa celebrity status in Hawaii. One week changed his life. And one year later, the 5-foot junior in high school has one tough act to follow in the Sony Open.

The past came rushing back during the Pro-Junior shootout at Waialae Country Club, and the kid embraced the moment.

Walking up to the 18th green for the final skills challenge, the master of ceremonies pointed to a spot on the green where Fujikawa holed a 15-foot eagle putt to shoot 66 in the second round and become the youngest player in 50 years to make the cut on the PGA Tour.

"No, it was here," Fujikawa said, hamming it up for a grandstand of junior golfers, parents and fans who look upon him with as much adoration as they once held for Michelle Wie.

Then he stood on the spot without a golf ball, putted toward an imaginary hole and delivered his version of instant replay. He dropped the putter and marched off with both hands in the air, then crouched to deliver an uppercut with a smile brighter than an afternoon sun over the shores of Oahu.

When the Pro-Junior Shootout ended Tuesday, sponsors brought a chocolate cake to Fujikawa to celebrate his 17th birthday.

"I feel old," he said, smiling.

Indeed, time moved at warp speed in 2007.

Fujikawa wound up in a tie for 20th last year. A few months later, he won the Pearl Open against a field that includes several pros from Japan. And by the summer, he decided to turn pro with two years left in high school.

He qualified as an amateur last year. He received a sponsor's exemption as a professional this year, the first full field of the season.

"It would be pretty tough to top last year," Fujikawa said Wednesday before his pro-am round. "It was pretty special last year, just because I was kind of new to that thing, and it just kind of call all of a sudden, and I wasn't really ready for it. But it was fun. I think the only way I could top last year would be if I win this year."

Now that would be a tall order.

The one thing that hasn't changed from a year ago is his career earnings on tour, which is still at zero. Fujikawa played three times on the PGA Tour, twice on the Nationwide Tour, once on the European tour and once in Japan, not making the cut in any of them.

"I'm playing for money now, but I don't really think about it, honestly. Maybe I should be thinking about it," he said, smiling. "My mom brought it up to me about three or four months ago. She was like, 'You know, you haven't made any money yet.' I'm playing for money now, so I'd better start doing better! No, I still feel the same way about golf and about the way I play the game."

The game looks fundamentally sound.

Fred Funk was playing behind Fujikawa on Monday and couldn't believe how far and straight he was hitting it, although everyone looks long off the tee to Funk. Fujikawa can hit driver about 275 yards in the air, a stock distance on tour, and few question his desire.

The decision to turn pro remains a topic of discussion.

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