Local golfers struggle on Sony’s first day
Some of that amateur magic could come in handy right about now for Tadd Fujikawa. And he might want to save some for Hawaii's other Sony Open golfers, too.
The Moanalua High junior shot an opening-round 4-over 74 yesterday and needs a vastly improved effort today if he is to make the cut at Waialae Country Club for the second straight year -- but first as a pro.
Round one didn't feature smooth outings from Hawaii's other pro golfers either, as Castle graduate Dean Wilson sits at 1-over 71 and Punahou alum Parker McLachlin got off to a rocky start with bogeys on his first two holes and sits at 3-over 73. Neither Wilson nor McLachlin made the cut last year, and no Hawaii golfer is in the top half of the field in 2008.
Punahou's Alex Ma'ila Ching, competing as an exempt amateur, played solidly with a 72, but local pro Kevin Hayashi was dead last with an 81.
Fujikawa fired scores of 71 and 66 in the first two rounds last year as a 16-year-old to become the youngest player in 50 years to make a PGA Tour cut, and galvanized the state behind his thrilling play as he rose as high as fourth late.
Fujikawa conceded he was feeling some pressure to produce eye-popping numbers again, especially on the front nine, where he double-bogeyed the second hole and took a 6-over mark into the turn.
"A little bit. I don't really try to think about that too much, just try to take it shot by shot and stick to my game," he said. "It's definitely hard when you have expectations like that, especially when you put it on yourself."
He played considerably better on the back nine, with three birdies against two bogeys, and no shot was bigger than at No. 17 when Fujikawa nailed a 7-foot birdie in front of a vocal gallery of about 150. It helped swing a potentially disastrous round to merely a subpar one -- he's currently tied at 136th.
Wilson played steadily if not spectacularly, but often got himself into trouble in the deep and unkempt rough. He missed four straight fairways after the turn and found himself adjusting to Waialae more than he enjoyed, with two shots negotiated around palm and ironwood trees to mixed results.
Wilson nailed a 40-foot putt for birdie on 11, but missed several close putts afterward and bogeyed three times before birdieing No. 18.
"I was really happy with the way things were going and just hit a couple of bad shots on the back nine, which really cost me," Wilson said. "That's just the way it goes. If you hit it in the rough, you've got to recover."
Ching was tested late with a tough shot hugging the gallery wall on the 18th in deep rough, forcing him to do several ball-drop attempts. He finally two-chipped his way onto the green before settling for par.
It reminded him of a couple of the trick shots he took on Tuesday in the Pro Junior Skills Challenge on that hole.
"I tried to lay it in there nicely, and I tried to be too cute with it," said Ching, 17, who plays tennis rather than golf for the Buffanblu. "It's just fun being inside these ropes with all these pros and just having everybody around. It was an honor."
McLachlin, meanwhile, was less than happy with his effort, but kept his sense of humor about it. When asked to go over his round with reporters, he laughed while saying, "Do we have to?"
McLachlin hit just three of 14 fairways. On a day when the rough lived up to its name, that translated into problems for the former Waialae errand boy.
"I was almost forced to hit more drivers and get aggressive (after the slow start), and you can't be hitting drivers out here. There's a premium on getting it onto the fairways, and I didn't do that today," McLachlin said. "The rough was tough."
He finished with something to build on for today, though, with birdies on Nos. 7 and 9. He made a 16-foot putt on 7 and a 5-footer on 9.
McLachlin said he had to "shake off some rust" in his first round of the year.
"I finished Q-school at the beginning of December and played 30 events last year, so I tried to take some time off," McLachlin said. "You want to peak at your hometown event, but it's a long year and you also want to peak toward the middle and end."