U.S. OPEN GOLF
As if teeing it up at the U.S. Open tomorrow wasn't a big enough thrill for Hawaii's Tadd Fujikawa, the 15-year-old will have the world's top player showing him around the Winged Foot Golf Club in New York today. Fujikawa is scheduled to play a practice round with Tiger Woods this morning, an exciting turn of events after he saw an opening in Woods' group and signed up for it.
Fujikawa tees with Tiger today
As if teeing it up at the U.S. Open tomorrow wasn't a big enough thrill for Tadd Fujikawa, the 15-year-old will have the world's top player showing him around Winged Foot today.
Fujikawa is scheduled to play a practice round with Tiger Woods this morning.
Kevin Ralbovsky, Fujikawa's coach, heard about the Moanalua High student's 1 a.m. (Hawaii time) tee time with Woods yesterday afternoon.
"I'm sure he's not going to be sleeping much tonight. That'll be just a lifetime experience for him," Ralbovsky said. "To play in this event and to play with Tiger, it's just a dream come true."
Fujikawa said in a press conference yesterday he saw an opening in Woods' group when he was signing up for a practice round.
"I thought about it, and I went outside, and they said, 'Go for it. This is the chance of a lifetime. No one else is probably not going to do this,' " he said.
"I said, 'You know what, I'll do that.' I went back and luckily no one had filled their name in yet, so I put my name down."
Small Poipu qualifier spurs USGA review
MAMARONECK, N.Y. » Tadd Fujikawa is the youngest player at the U.S. Open at age 15, and some might say he had the easiest road to Winged Foot. His 36-hole sectional qualifier in Hawaii featured only 10 players competing for one spot.
Whether the USGA continues to offer one spot from such a small qualifier looks doubtful.
"We're looking into it," executive director David Fay said.
The USGA tries to distribute the U.S. Open spots depending on the strength of the field and the number of players entered. There were 18 spots at Canoe Brook in New Jersey, where Michelle Wie tried to qualify, because so many PGA Tour players were there. Colorado and Oregon qualifiers also offered only one spot, but they had 25 and 26 players, respectively, in the field.
"It's obviously because of travel," said Jeff Sluman, who earned one of 21 spots in Columbus, Ohio. "They should probably lump it into the California regional. If you've got to travel to Winged Foot from Hawaii, you can probably travel to California to get in."
Fujikawa finished two shots behind Wie in the 18-hole local qualifier in Hawaii.
Wie was surprised to hear that only 10 players were competing for one spot at Poipu Bay, although she played the LPGA Championship last week and it would not have made sense to stay home.
Dean Wilson, born in Hawaii and now living in Las Vegas, didn't see anything wrong with leaving a sectional qualifier on the islands. This is his third U.S. Open, and he has always qualified on the mainland.
"I guess it would be an easier way (to get in)," Wilson said. "I look it at the other way, being from Hawaii. All the other times, it's so tough for anyone from Hawaii to qualify for the Open or the U.S. Amateur or any other tournament. We've always had to travel away from Hawaii. It's the U.S Open, and Hawaii is part of the U.S. So, I think it's pretty good."
For Fujikawa's coach, Kevin Ralbovsky, it's a matter of quality, not necessarily quantity.
"I have to think and hope they will look at not just the number of golfers who try to qualify, but the performance of those who get in. I think Tadd and Stephanie (Kono, who qualified for the U.S. Women's Open yesterday at Ko Olina) will do well."
Ralbovsky also coaches Kono.
On Phil's mind: One of the best birdies Phil Mickelson made at the Memorial two weeks ago was a chip-in for birdie from behind the 10th green, a mini-flop shot in which the ball went forward 3 feet and rolled some 25 feet into the cup.
Turns out the U.S. Open was on his mind.
He was using a 64-degree lob wedge at Muirfield Village, and it will be in his bag at Winged Foot for the U.S. Open.
Mickelson said it will help him get out of the thick rough around the greens with less bounce, and hit higher, softer bunker shots.
"Because the bunkers are so deep there, and there's so much undulation on the green, I want it coming in as soft as possible," he said.
That will give Mickelson four wedges in his bag, but only one driver.
NBC extends Miller's contract: If the U.S. Open wasn't tough enough, NBC Sports made an announcement yesterday that won't make some players feel any better: Johnny Miller has signed a long-term extension with the network as the lead golf analyst.
Miller says what he thinks without a filter, which has been entertaining to the folks at home, and aggravating to the players. Among his most memorable lines is suggesting Justin Leonard should have stayed home because of how he played in the second day of matches at the '99 Ryder Cup. And he doesn't hesitate to say someone choked.
"My goal in announcing is to speak just like I'm in the living room with you and we're having pizza and I'm just letting go," said Miller.