HONOLULU – Johnson Wagner picked up his third career PGA Tour title with a come-from-behind effort at the Sony Open, clearing a group of players by two shots.
Both Matt Every and Jeff Maggert, the 54-hole leaders, struggled with their putters and allowed Wagner to take advantage.
Here are 5 Things to take away from Sunday at the Sony Open:
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1. New year, new look: As changes go, Johnson Wagner’s mustache may not rate up there in news value to players who signed new club deals for 2012, but it sure is catching some attention.
Up front, Wagner concedes “my wife hates it,” but he said the thick black mustache is staying – at least until the spring.
“I plan to keep it until the first of April when I play in the Masters,” he said. “The mustache will stay.”
There’s not much of a story behind the mustache, other than Wagner said he didn’t shave for a few weeks around Thanksgiving and “I didn’t want to waste all that effort, because I’ve never had that much facial hair.”
Wagner said he shaved what passed as a beard, but kind of liked the mustache. Yes, it has caused plenty of double-takes.
“I’ve had to acquire thick skin,” he said. “My friends back in Charlotte are calling me ‘Juan’ or ‘Carlos.’ I guess they think I look more Latin.”
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2. Returning: Ken Duke had his homecoming of sorts on the PGA Tour after a year’s stint on the Nationwide Tour.
Duke, 42, made a furious move late last year to regain his PGA Tour card, finishing seventh on the Nationwide money list to get back to the Big Show.
Now with a second chance, Duke is hoping to make the most of it.
“I think more disappointing than hard,” Duke said of losing his card and being demoted. “I felt like I could play out here. I just lost my confidence that year.”
Duke was referring to 2010. After solid years in 2007 and 2008 (earning more than $4 million), a dismal 2009 with only two top 10s and $382,826 in winnings, the Arkansas native had to reassess his game.
“I think one of the major things I needed to look at was to work out,” Duke said. “I never had done that. I see all these people do it, and all of a sudden I’m not doing it, what’s the problem? Am I too good to do it? That wasn’t it.”
Losing 18 pounds in nine months, Duke got stronger, felt healthier and more refreshed. So, now late in rounds, Duke thinks he can compete and not have to simply hang on.
“I didn’t realize I was that much overweight and I just thought my ability would carry me through,” Duke said of dropping from 226 pounds to his current 208. “I think that to get to the next level, not finish second, finished third or just to be an OK player out here, I had to make a change, and that was one of them.”
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3. A real rookie: J.J. Killeen teed it up on Thursday for the first time in a PGA Tour event. Occupying the top spot on the Nationwide money list in 2011, Killeen usually tried to get a spot on the big tour either by Monday qualifying or Q-School, where he missed by a shot in 2010.
But two wins on the Nationwide in 2011 and Killeen finally made it to the PGA Tour.
“There’s a lot of the same things, but it’s just magnified,” Killeen said of the difference between the PGA Tour and the Nationwide. “More people, more commotion, moving around – things like that – but when you’re playing, you get used to it really fast because you have to. Your goal’s to play as well as you can, so you can’t let that stuff bother you.”
The TCU grad is planning to play everything on the West Coast, making it similar to the Nationwide, where everyone plays as much as possible so they don’t get passed on the all-important money list.
One of the benefits that Killeen has, unlike all other rookies, is that he can set his schedule since he led the money list last year on the Nationwide Tour and won’t be part of the reshuffle.
“I’m going to play quite a bit, but it’s nice to know that . . . I guess a lot of those guys get shuffled and things like that, and I’m sure that can be nerve-racking,” Killeen said. “But when you’re playing golf, you’re probably going to be playing the same way. You’re probably not going to be thinking about that. But to finish No. 1 is good. I know I’m going to get quite a few events. The guys from Colonial in Fort Worth just gave me a spot in that, so it’s a really cool deal.”
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4. Local boy makes good: Tadd Fujikawa had his best finish at the Sony Open when he shot a final-round 67 to jump to 19th, finishing just short of a top 10 and a spot in the Farmers Insurance Open.
But instead, the 21-year-old will return to his adopted home of Sea Island, Ga., later in the month and get ready for the e-Golf Tour that starts play in February. But that’s only a prelude for the young Hawaiian, as he plans to make it to the PGA Tour permanently.
“The easiest way to get on the Tour is Nationwide,” said Fujikawa, having taken advice from instructor Todd Anderson on getting to the PGA Tour in the quickest possible way.
“I’m going to try to get in through some Monday qualifiers and try to (get a) top 25 and move on.”
Fujikawa, who spent time with Anderson and mental coach Morris Pickens, knows his game is still not completely ready for prime time. Fujikawa needs to drive the ball better, but his iron play and short game continue to get better.
“You can always improve,” Fujikawa said. “Last year was really bad for me. I didn’t feel like I was playing well at all.”
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5. The Sign: Friday morning, four signs were posted in the Waialae Country Club locker room. It’s clear what they are for: players who are either too cheap or a gentle reminder to pay the locker-room attendant.
Either way, it seems a Tour of millionaires shouldn’t have to be reminded to give the locker-room attendants $50. The bigger question: Why only $50?
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Short shots: Charles Howell III’s first three-putt of the new year came at a critical time, on the par-5 ninth Sunday, costing him a birdie and no momentum into the back nine. . . . Chris DiMarco finished 13th at Sony, his best finish on the PGA Tour since an 11th at The Greenbirer Classic last year. . . . John Rollins shot a final-round 64 to move from 51st to 10th. The final group of Matt Every (72) and Jeff Maggert (74) shot a combined 6 over in the last round.