HONOLULU (AP) — Paul Goydos once joked that he made PGA Tour history in 2007 by winning the Sony Open as the first player to beat a field that included a 5-foot boy (Tadd Fujikawa) and a 6-foot girl (Michelle Wie).
If Goydos wins at Waialae next month, it could be against a field that doesn’t include either of Hawaii’s most famous golfing teens.
Tournament director Ray Stosik said Wie, now a 19-year-old student at Stanford, would not be playing the Sony Open for the second straight year. Wie was in Palm Desert, Calif., practicing and getting ready for her next school quarter. Wie played her hometown PGA Tour event four straight years, and twice shot 68 although she never made the cut.
Wie earned her LPGA Tour card at Q-school earlier this month. She has competed against men every year since 2003, and said after Q-school that she would do it again.
“I always wanted to do it since I started golf,” he said.
As for Fujikawa?
He qualified for the Sony Open in 2007 and tied for 20th, leading him to turn pro later that summer. He was given a sponsor’s exemption this year, but missed the cut. Fujikawa won the Mid-Pacific Open in Hawaii this year, and he made the cut at a Japan Golf Tour event, his first as a pro on a recognized tour.
Stosik said Fujikawa would be at the Monday qualifier the week at the Sony Open, which will be held at Turtle Bay.
OLYMPIC SUPPORT Golf appears to be in much better shape to join the Olympic program for 2016 than when it tried earlier this decade for the 2008 Games, mainly because of its unified support.
That includes PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, who was lukewarm to the idea six years ago.
So why the change of heart?
Finchem alluded to the “missing answer” to a question of how to quantify how golf in the Olympics would generate support around the world for the game to grow. He said a study was completed a year ago that evaluated financial resources from various governments.
“There’s over 100 countries where government supports sport in those countries, but only sports that are in Olympic programs,” he said. “So if golf is added to the Olympic program, those federations will immediately start giving financial support to help build the game. That’s what turned us from looking at it just from a standpoint of what the competition meant to the overall mix in professional golf.
“We are persuaded that we need to grow golf around the globe,” he said. “And this is a very positive step.”
PRO V1 PLUS Steve Stricker started and finished the year as a runner-up – in a playoff at the season-opening Mercedes-Benz Championship at Kapalua, and by one shot at the Chevron World Challenge.
One difference – besides the climate – was the golf ball he played.
While some players have been testing the new Titleist ball, Stricker used the Pro V1 Plus at Sherwood Country Club. He couldn’t draw too many conclusions given the cool, wet conditions.
“It may be a touch firmer,” he said. “It feels like I hit it a little flatter off the tee, which is good. But it didn’t seem a whole lot different. My distances were still similar.”
It was not known how many players will use the Pro V1 Plus at the Mercedes-Benz Championship at Kapalua, and how many will stick with the prior generation of Pro V1, which Titleist says has specifications that fall outside any claims of the patents in dispute with Callaway.
LONG ROAD Six players who had to qualify for the first of three stages of PGA Tour qualifying reached the finals, and while none earned their PGA cards, it was an impressive feat.
Martin Piller closed with a 68 to tie for 40th, while Joseph Sykora shot 66 on the TPC Stadium Course to tie for 70th. That gives them full status for the Nationwide Tour next year, improving their odds of getting to the PGA Tour.
The top 25 on the Nationwide money list graduate to the big leagues.
WEIR OUTLOOK Mike Weir of Canada will start the 2009 season with the Presidents Cup among his goals, but in much better shape than he was in two years ago – not only in the International team standings, but between the ears.
Weir was obsessed with making the 2007 team, and rightfully so because it was held in Canada. This year, the event returns to U.S. soil at Harding Park in San Francisco.
“It’s on the back burner,” Weir said. “I want to do some things individually, and hopefully, that takes care of other things.”
That wasn’t the case the last time. Weir started the ’07 season at 20th in the Presidents Cup standings, and he had gone nearly three years without winning on the PGA Tour, which only added to the burden.
“You hate to think it did affect me, but I was thinking about it all the time,” he said. “I wasn’t playing the greatest, I wasn’t getting any younger and you knew it would not be held there (Canada) again, at least when I was playing. This time, with what I plan on doing next year, it will take care of itself.”
SMALL WORLD John Wood, the caddie for Hunter Mahan, interrupted his vacation to work the LPGA Tour qualifying tournament for Kim Welch, a good friend from Sacramento, Calif.
Welch played the first two rounds with Leah Wigger, who kept looking at Welch’s caddie because he looked familiar. Turns out Wigger is from Louisville, and she was working at the Ryder Cup getting advance yardage for NBC Sports analyst Dottie Pepper. She had Mahan’s group in one of the matches.
Wigger missed full-exempt status by one shot, while Welch tied for 49th to receive conditional status.
DIVOTS Delta Air Lines plans to add more than 7,000 seats for travel between Augusta, Ga., and its Atlanta hub during the week of the Masters, as well as daily service between Augusta and LaGuardia Airport and peak-day service to JFK. The expanded service will be flown on a mix of Boeing 757 and CRJ900 aircraft. … The LPGA Tour and Brasil 1 will stage an exhibition Jan. 24-25 in Rio de Janeiro called the HSBC LPGA Brasil Cup 2009. It features a 15-player field (14 LPGA members) with a $500,000 purse.
STAT OF THE WEEK The top 10 players on the PGA Tour’s career money list have combined for over $410 million in earnings.
FINAL WORD “I’d much rather have two majors than one.” – Tiger Woods, on why he voted for Padraig Harrington as PGA Tour player of the year.