History may say that Zach Johnson was the winner of last week’s Sony Open, but it was Tadd Fujikawa who stole the event.
It might all sound familiar. In 2007, the Hawaiian native lit up the Sony with a 20th-place finish while becoming, at age 16, the youngest player to make a PGA cut. Last week those positive island vibes returned to Waialae Country Club as Fujikawa, now an 18-year-old high school senior, qualified once again to play on the weekend. He then fired a Saturday 62, temporarily reaching the summit of the leaderboard – and elevating Tadd-mania to new heights. On Sunday he scratched out a 73 in front of the loudest galleries of the day, finishing T-32 and earning $29,237. For the second time in three years, the Sony Open was unquestionably the Tadd Fujikawa show.
Compare your experience last weekend with the 2007 event.
TF: My mind going into this week was extremely different. Two years ago I qualified, but it wasn’t a Monday qualifier. For this week I worked a lot harder. I’ve made some changes in my swing and I’m feeling more confident about my game. I was going out there to win. Two years ago I was just trying to go out there and have fun.
Did you surprise yourself with that 62?
TF: A little bit, but I’ve been playing well recently. The first day I putted well, but I didn’t hit the ball well. The second day I hit the ball great, but I didn’t putt well. I just wanted to bring them all together and it happened on Saturday. It’s a great feeling when everything gels and all my hard work is paying off.
Do you enjoy being the fan favorite?
TF: I really, really enjoy it. It’s a lot of fun for me. I like the atmosphere. Having the support of family and friends and fans is just really fun.
You made a tough choice by electing to turn professional at age 16. What’s the best tip you’ve been given since then?
TF: I’ve gotten a lot of advice from pros and from friends. The best is probably to go out there and have fun. You want to stay focused, but you really need to enjoy what you do. I hear that a lot, and it really helps me.
Your father, Derrick, is involved in some serious legal trouble. How has it affected you in this early phase of your pro golf career?
TF: It’s a tough situation. It’s not easy, but with the support of my family and my friends, and everyone form Hawaii it makes life easier. But what’s done is done, and I can’t do anything about that. I still have school and golf to worry about and work at to achieve my dreams. In the end it will make me a stronger person.”
You’re not a member of the PGA Tour, or any tour. Any idea what your next tournament will be?
TF: Not sure. I’m trying to get into a few more PGA events through sponsors’ exemptions. Hopefully how I did this week will help with that. I’m still going to be working hard. I just want to get out there and play as much as I can. I want to get back in contention.
What are your goals for the rest of the year?
TF: First of all I want to graduate by May. On the golf course, I just want to go out there and play as much as I can. I want to get in contention as much as possible. The more I can get in that situation the better I’ll be. I’m going to try to get my card-I’m not sure which Tour it would be. It depends where I feel my game is ready for. I may play in Japan, or I may play in the States, or maybe even Europe. Obviously I’d like to play on the PGA Tour, but it all depends on how my game feels.
Fair to say you intend to play in the Sony again in 2010?
TF: Yes. [laughs] This year I didn’t get an exemption, but hopefully next year I’ll have my card. If I have to Monday-qualify again, then so be it.