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Tadd Fujikawa returns as a pro

Hawaiian teenager Tadd Fujikawa goes into this week's Sony Open knowing that victory would be the only way to eclipse his astonishing performance as an amateur in last year's tournament.

Twelve months ago, the five-foot, one-inch Fujikawa became the second-youngest player to make a PGA Tour cut before ending a fairytale week in a tie for 20th place.

Aged just 16, he thrilled the huge galleries at Waialae Country Club by firing a sparkling four-under-par 66 in the second round and signed off in the final round with a birdie at the last.

"It would be pretty tough to top last year," Fujikawa told reporters on Wednesday, a day after turning 17.

"That was pretty special just because I was kind of new to that thing and it just kind of came all of a sudden and I wasn't really ready for it. But it was fun.

"I think the only way I could top last year would be if I win this year. I'm just going to do the best that I can, really have fun and basically try to do the same things that I did last year."

A junior at Moanalua High School where he particularly enjoys science, Fujikawa turned professional midway through last year.

He received a sponsor's exemption for this week's event and is eager to make his first cut in the paid ranks after failing in three previous attempts on the PGA Tour and twice on the satellite Nationwide Tour.

"Of course I'm playing for money now but I don't really think about it," the diminutive 17-year-old said. "Maybe I should be thinking about it.

"My mom brought it up to me about three or four months ago and she's like: 'You know, you haven't made any money yet. It's so sad.'

"I'm like: 'Oh, yeah, I forgot I'm playing for money now so I'd better start doing better'. But I still feel the same way about golf and I'm just going to stick to that."

Fujikawa, who became the second-youngest qualifier in U.S. Open history at Winged Foot in 2006, is excited about his prospects for the week after improving his putting.

"I'm really feeling good about the way I'm playing, the way I'm hitting the ball, and my putting is looking a little better than it did about a few months ago," he said.

"I had some struggles with my putting but I switched my grip to left-hand low about a week-and-a-half ago and it's been working pretty well. I'm really looking forward to this week."

The Sony Open, the second event on the 2008 PGA Tour, starts on Thursday.


January 10, 2008

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