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No Wie, but still plenty of players to watch at Sony

1/10/2008 - Golf

Michelle Wie is not there to kick around. For the first time in five years, the former Hawaiian phenom is absent from the field at the Sony Open, failing to garner an invite after a disastrous season of golf. Wie, apparently, will concentrate solely on women's events this year.

So Honolulu and the Sony Open will not be quite the circus it has been in previous years, although that is not to say there are not plenty of other interesting players teeing it up in the season's first full-field event. Here are a half-dozen of 'em:


Tadd Fujikawa:A year ago, the 5-foot-1 Hawaiian stole the show. At 16, he shot a second-round 66 and became the youngest player in 50 years to make a PGA Tour cut, causing quite the weekend buzz en route to a T-20 finish. He later went on to win Hawaii's Pearl Open. And then he turned pro.

Now he is 17, a professional, and things are a bit different. He returns for his second Sony Open having played eight tournaments as a pro -- and having missed every cut. He has been to Canada, Switzerland and Japan. He has signed some endorsement deals.

But there is still the question of whether he turned pro too early, whether his game was ready. Those questions are unlikely to be answered this week, where he will be on friendly turf and on a golf course he knows he can play well.


John Daly:Long John led the world in WDs last year and by the end of the season his act started to wear thin among tournament organizers who gave him a spot in their field, only to see him dog it.

The Sony folks decided to give Daly another exemption, and here's hoping he makes the most of his opportunities this year. Daly has finished well outside of the top-125 money winners the last two years, but his enormous popularity continues to go a long way.

Perhaps Butch Harmon, with whom Daly said he would begin working this year, will work on his attitude as well as his swing.


Tommy "Two Gloves" Gainey:With a grand total of one PGA Tour event, Gainey makes his debut as a PGA Tour rookie. He often wears two gloves -- hence the nickname -- and he originally gained notoriety competing on the Golf Channel's "Big Break" series.

What Gainey, 32, lacks in experience at the elite level he makes up for in guile. The guy knows what pressure is like, having worked in a South Carolina before becoming a professional golfer. He was good enough to earn more than $100,000 in 2006 and 2007 on the Tar Heel Tour, no small feat at that level.

It will be interesting to see how he fares. Gainey seemingly had his card locked up at Q-school, then hung on for dear life, shooting a final-round 77 to make it by one stroke.


Jason Day:He was a talented player from Australia with a lot of interest and fanfare. And that was before he took aim at Tiger Woods, saying he hoped to one day soon take down the game's No. 1 player. Never mind that Day is just 20 years old and will be the youngest player on the PGA Tour this year.

You do have to admire the kid's gumption. He played in seven PGA Tour events in 2006, making five cuts, with his best finish a tie for 11th at the Reno-Tahoe Open. Last year he had one victory and seven top-10s on the Nationwide Tour.


Fred Funk:At age 51, Funk is embarking on an ambitious plan to play both the PGA Tour and Champions Tour this year. He is in the midst of his "Hawaii Slam," playing the first two events on the PGA Tour followed by the first two on the Champions Tour, all in the Aloha State. He tied for 25th last week at the Mercedes-Benz Championship.

Funk continues to amaze despite being one of the shortest hitters. He won the Players Championship in 2005 and won in Mexico last year. If he were to devote himself to the Champions Tour, Funk would likely dominate, but competing against the best is still a great lure.


Yong-Eun Yang:Never heard of him? Tiger Woods has. Yang's biggest claim to fame is defeating Woods at the 2006 HSBC Champions, the season-opening event on the 2007 European Tour schedule. He joined K.J. Choi as the only Koreans to win on the European Tour.

Yang, who turns 36 next week, played in the Masters last year and tied for 30th. He also made it into the CA Championship, the Bridgestone Invitational and the PGA Championship. He won four times on the Japan Tour between 2004 and 2006, finishing among the top-10 money winners each year. Yang finished sixth at Q-school, shooting under par in all six rounds.

Bob Harig is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached at BobHarig@gmail.com.