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Wednesday, October 22, 2014         

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Fujikawa's omission hurts sales

By Paul Arnett

POSTED:



Not having Tadd Fujikawa in this year's Sony Open in Hawaii left the opening two rounds of this PGA Tour event as flat as a Waialae fairway.

To say things have been quiet around here is like pointing out it rained on Wednesday. It's so obvious, even the golfers in this week's first full-field event on tour have wondered out loud what's with all the silence?

It's not as if the leaderboard is short on names, either. Shigeki Maruyama is playing with house money entering today's closing 36 holes. Stuart Appleby shot a 59 last year, Matt Kuchar pocketed more cash than anybody, and even fan faves Steve Stricker and Ernie Els are within shouting distance of the leaders; that is, if anybody's willing to talk above a whisper.

It's too bad somebody didn't whip up some "Where's Tadd?" T-shirts or walk around the grounds with signs asking, "Got Tadd?" The powers that be elected not to give the Moanalua High graduate one of nine sponsor's exemptions that Sony handed out like candy on Halloween.

Perhaps the Sony lads were hopeful Fujikawa would play his way in, gambling that he would make it in the Monday qualifier as he has in the past. In four appearances, Fujikawa made it in 2007 as an amateur, stealing the show from eventual Sony Open winner Paul Goydos by tying for 20th as a 16-year-old.

He missed the cut in 2008, but made it in 2009, his first as a professional. He tied for 32nd, earning $29,237. He missed the cut last year, and even though he wrote a letter to Sony asking for an exemption this year, he was turned down.

Instead, John Daly, Duffy Waldorf and Shane Bertsch were let under the ropes. So were Michio Matsumura, amateurs Hideki Matsuyama and David Saka, and Tadahiro Takayama. The only two playing today among those original nine are co-leader Maruyama and W.C. Liang, who was 4 under after two rounds.

WITH THAT SAID, Sony has the right to invite anybody it wants. It's an honor for players in Japan to get an opportunity to trade gloves with the big boys on tour. But giving Daly his fourth sponsor's exemption in five years after he teed it up here only five times as a full tour member between 1992 and 2006 is a real head-scratcher.

Daly played in front of a handful of people here yesterday. There were two security guards scanning the crowd for would-be troublemakers, but Daly was so blah on the course, by the time he got to the 18th, most of his faithful had disappeared from the scene.

He had no birdies, four bogeys and a lone eagle at the ninth that gave him a brief glimmer of hope that he would make his first cut here since 2008. His best finish was a tie for 28th in 2007, the same year Little Tadd stole the show.

As for Fujikawa, he expressed disappointment at not getting an exemption, but conceded he received the opportunity to make it the old-fashioned way — through qualifying. That may be, but ticket sales were hurt by this decision.

No matter how popular Daly is on the mainland or with Golf Channel viewers, his star power here would have been eclipsed by a guy only half his size. Just ask those who walked Waialae the last two days; that is, if you can still find any.

Reach Star-Advertiser sports editor Paul Arnett at parnett@staradvertiser.com.






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