HONOLULU (AP) — PGA Tour players have big dreams 10 miles up the shore from Waikiki Beach at the Sony Open, the season-opener for those who failed to win last year and are optimistic that 2009 will be different.
That’s particularly true for Harrison Frazar, who has another chance he wasn’t sure he wanted.
Once considered the best player to have never won on the PGA Tour, Frazar lost his card last year for the first time since his rookie season in 1998. While playing golf with friends in Austin, Texas, he found the conversation shifting more toward their world than his.
“I was to the point of playing golf with friends at home that are in the business community, and talking about options of moving forward, about what I could do for them,” Frazar said. “We were to that point.”
It wasn’t the first time.
Even though he was a three-time All-American at Texas, he didn’t think he was good enough for the PGA Tour and took a job out of college in real estate development. It took a year before he tried pro golf, and he made it to the big leagues a few years later.
Now is not the best time for a 37-year-old father of three to be looking to change careers.
“I just had to ask myself, ‘Do I want to play golf?’ or just say, ‘This is great, I enjoyed it, past part of my life, we’re going to move on.’ And I decided that for a myriad of reasons that I still want to be a golfer.”
Frazar went back to Q-school for the first time since 1996, committed to playing on the Nationwide Tour if he didn’t get his card. And that appeared to be the case when he was in the middle of the pack halfway through the 108-hole tournament. Then came a magical fourth round in the California desert when Frazar shot 59.
That carried him to an eight-stroke victory and a trip to Honolulu to start a new season.
“Some old fuses were re-lit,” he said. “Realizing that I can play still, that it’s in there. There’s enough to give me hope and make me want to go back to work and try to find it.”
He is part of the 144-man field at Waialae Country Club, the second official event of the season, and perhaps the sharpest contrast of any two weeks on the PGA Tour.
The Plantation course at Kapalua was carved out of a mountain, offering spectacular scenery and such severe elevation changes that there were 24 tee shots that traveled at least 400 years. Waialae is a classic course that sits on the edge of the beach, with skinny palms and peaceful vibes, and greens that are small and flat.
Last week was for winners only.
The Sony Open has 76 players who have never won a PGA Tour event. Of the 26 rookies at Waialae, 10 of them will be teeing it up in a PGA Tour event for the first time ever.
Tadd Fujikawa is one of two teenagers in the field, playing for the Sony Open for the third straight year. The 18-year-old senior in high school earned his spot Monday in a qualifier across the island at Turtle Bay. The other is 14-year-old Lorens Chan, who earned the exemption set aside for the top amateur in Hawaii.
K.J. Choi is the defending champion, winning last year by three shots despite becoming the first Sony Open winner in 41 years who failed to break par in the final round. That was a tribute to the wind, which can blow on Oahu as much as it does on Maui.
The field is missing Vijay Singh, who had surgery on his right knee Wednesday, but returning to Waialae is former champion Ernie Els and Adam Scott, who decided to stick around after the Mercedes last week at Kapalua.
So did Geoff Ogilvy, who got his season off to the perfect start with a six-shot victory at Kapalua.
It was his fifth victory in five years, but the 31-year-old Australian has only had one multiple-win season, that coming in 2006 when he won the Accenture Match Play Championship and the U.S. Open. Five winners at Kapalua this decade didn’t win again the rest of the season.
“It’s probably just a coincidence,” Ogilvy said. “Might be a bit of complacency. When you get to the top of the money list after one week, you get all excited, maybe you take the rest of the year for granted. Hopefully, I can change the trend so the coincidences go away.”
Or he could be like Els in 2003 and sweep the Hawaii events.
Frazar, meanwhile, would gladly settle for his first victory.
He is among a small group of players who have won at least $8 million without ever hoisting a trophy on the PGA Tour. Even so, any discussion about the best player to have not won on tour starts with Frazar.
And no, Q-school doesn’t count.
He has teed it up 300 times on the PGA Tour and has 10 top 3s, including a runner-up finish to Els at Waialae in 2004. Brett Quigley had 334 starts without winning with four top 3s. Briny Baird has five top 3s in his 274 starts.
Tim Clark and Justin Rose also have $8 million and no victories, although both have won against big-league competition overseas.
Frazar knows the label — it doesn’t get as much attention as best to have never won a major — and he takes it both ways.
“It’s a compliment because people feel like there’s a lot inside of you and what you’re capable of,” he said. “It’s also a slight. It’s a little jab by saying you haven’t done it.”
But he gets another chance this year. And that’s a start.