Ishikawa to get quick baptism at Presidents Cup

By Doug FergusonOctober 8, 2009, 4:19 pm

SAN FRANCISCO – Geoff Ogilvy recalls playing in the Taiheiyo Masters in Japan when he noticed a swarm of photographers and fans descending over a hill, scrambling for the best view.

“It was a Tiger pack,” Ogilvy said.

He turned to his playing partner, Brendan Jones of Australia, a regular on the Japan Golf Tour, and asked, “Who’s that?”

“It’s the kid,” Jones replied.

He wasn’t kidding.

Ryo Ishikawa was only 16 at the time, already a star. He was a 15-year-old amateur when he became the youngest player to win a tournament that carried official world ranking points. Having since turned professional, the Japanese sensation has four victories over the last calendar year, more than anyone else on his International team at the Presidents Cup.

“I think Ryo is one of the most exciting players in the world today,” Ernie Els said.

He is used to having “the youngest” attached to just about everything he does, and this week is no different. Ishikawa, who recently turned 18, is the youngest ever to compete in the Presidents Cup.

The fast track continues Thursday when the Presidents Cup gets under way with six foursomes matches. The most compelling will be the fifth match: Ogilvy and Ishikawa against Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker.

It was International captain Greg Norman’s idea to put Ogilvy, who has an 18-3 record in match play, with Ishikawa. U.S. captain Fred Couples decided to put Woods and Stricker into that match.

Ishikawa is up for the challenge, even while showing his deep respect.

“I know that for the U.S. team, Mr. Woods and Mr. Stricker, they are going to be basically the No. 1 team,” Ishikawa said through a translator. “And I’m very excited because of the fact that Mr. Couples picked Mr. Woods and Mr. Stricker to be our opponents. Obviously, this is going to be an important match.

“I feel that if we can win this one, maybe we can stop the American team from getting out of their rhythm.”

That’s the goal for everyone on the International team.

The first day of the Presidents Cup has rarely meant so much to one team. Memories are still fresh from two years ago at Royal Montreal, however, when the opening session ended without a single International victory.

The United States won five of six matches. The other was halved. The International team never seriously cut into the five-point deficit, and it turned out to be another U.S. victory.

The Americans lead the series 5-1-1, and the tale of the tape does not favor the International side at Harding Park.

  •  The Americans have never lost on home soil.
  • The only International victory came 11 years ago in Australia, played late in the year when the U.S. team was not in form.
  • Seven players on the International team have not won anywhere in the world this year.

How bleak is the outlook? Els figured the International team would consider it a victory Thursday if it can split the matches.

Then again, perhaps that can work in its favor.

“We normally come here with a very good team on paper, and it seems like this year, some of us haven’t played that great,” Els said. “We feel like we are underdogs, and I think we kind of want to prove something this week.”

Ishikawa is not one to get rattled.

He has had what seems like the entire Japanese nation following his entire move for so long, and the presence of photographers is nothing new. As for the stage, he played with Woods and Lee Westwood the first two days at the British Open, where he held his own against the world’s No. 1 player until a late fade that caused him to miss the cut, just like Woods.

About the only thing that spooked him Wednesday was meeting Michael Jordan, who is in official attire in his unofficial role as an honorary assistant for the American team.

“Mr. Jordan was really big, and I saw him from a far distance yesterday,” Ishikawa said. “So I was really excited to get to meet him today and to speak with him briefly.”

The Americans always look as though they are having a good time at the Presidents Cup, perhaps because they usually are winning. The extra dimension this week has been the appearance of Jordan – minus the trail of smoke coming from his cigar.

City officials saw a picture of him in the San Francisco Chronicle on Tuesday smoking his stogie, and asked the tour to remind Jordan that smoking is banned at Harding Park, even for an NBA icon.

“I think he’s a team motivator,” Zach Johnson said. “You talk about the best basketball player of all time, but you’re also talking about one of the best team players of all time. When you add that ingredient into it, I just think it’s a positive.”

All that matters is points on the board, which is unpredictable until the matches get under way.

The U.S. team looks like the favorite on paper. It has the top three players in the world – Woods, Phil Mickelson and Stricker – and five of the top nine. It has seven major champions. Eight of its players have won in the last five months.

Paper never matters in this format – not the credentials, not the pairings.

“There’s no real equation that you’re going to put on paper that’s going to work,” Vijay Singh said. “You just have to go out there and play good golf, and I think that’s what the guys are geared up for. And hopefully, the golf is going to be a little bit more favorable to us this time.”

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Rahm focusing on play, not shot at No. 1

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 9:06 pm

SAN DIEGO – Jon Rahm’s meteoric rise in the world rankings could end with him reaching No. 1 with a win this week at Torrey Pines.

After winning last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his fourth title in 51 weeks, Rahm has closed the gap on Dustin Johnson – less than 1.5 average points separates them.

With Johnson not playing this week, the 23-year-old Spaniard has a chance to reach the top spot for the first time, but only if he defends his title at the Farmers Insurance Open.

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“Beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task. It’s no easy task,” he said Tuesday. “We still have four days of golf ahead and we’ll see what happens. But I’ll try to focus more on what’s going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win.

“I’ll try my best, that’s for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”

Rahm has already become the fourth-youngest player to reach No. 2 in the world, behind Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy. 

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Rahm: Playoff wasn't friendly, just 'nervous'

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 8:53 pm

SAN DIEGO – Too chummy? Jon Rahm says he and Andrew Landry were just expending some nervous energy on the walk up to the fairway during the first playoff hole of the CareerBuilder Challenge.

“I wouldn’t have been that nervous if it was friendly,” Rahm said with a smile Tuesday. “I think it was something he said because we were talking going out of the first tee.

“I didn’t know Andrew – I think it was a pretty good time to get to know him. We had at least 10 minutes to ourselves. It’s not like we were supporting each other, right? We were both in it together, we were both nervous together, and I felt like talking about it might have eased the tension out of both of us.”

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On Sunday, two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange saw the exchange on TV and tweeted: “Walking off the tee talking to each other. Are you kidding me? Talking at all?”

Strange followed up by saying that, in a head-to-head situation, the last thing he’d want to do was make his opponent comfortable. When his comments went viral, Strange tweeted at Rahm, who won after four holes: “Hopefully no offense taken on my comment yesterday. You guys are terrific. I’m a huge fan of all players today. Made an adverse comment on U guys talking during playoff. Not for me. A fan.”

Not surprisingly, the gregarious Rahm saw things differently.

“We only talked going out of the first tee up until the fairway,” he said. “Besides that, all we said was, ‘Good shot, good putt, see you on the next tee.’ That’s what it was reduced to. We didn’t say much.” 

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Tiger grouped with Reed, Hoffman at Torrey Pines

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 8:35 pm

SAN DIEGO – Tiger Woods will make his 2018 debut alongside Patrick Reed and Charley Hoffman.

The threesome will go off Torrey Pines’ South Course at 1:40 p.m. ET Thursday at the Farmers Insurance Open. They begin at 12:30 p.m. Friday on the North Course.

Woods is an eight-time winner at Torrey Pines, including the 2008 U.S. Open, but he hasn’t broken 70 in his last seven rounds on either course. Last year, he shot rounds of 76-72 to miss the cut.

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Reed, who has grown close to Woods after being in his pod during the past two international team competitions, is coming off a missed cut last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Hoffman, a San Diego native, has only two top-10s in 20 career starts at Torrey.

Other featured groups for the first two rounds include:

• Jon Rahm, Jason Day and Brandt Snedeker: 1:30 p.m. Thursday off South 1, 12:20 p.m. Friday off North 10

• Rickie Fowler, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele: 12:30 p.m. Thursday off North 10, 1:30 p.m. Friday off South 1

• Phil Mickelson, Justin Rose, Hideki Matsuyama: 12:40 p.m. Thursday off North 10, 1:40 p.m. Friday off South 1

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Singh's lawsuit stalls as judge denies motion

By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2018, 7:54 pm

Vijay Singh’s attempts to speed up the proceedings in his ongoing lawsuit against the PGA Tour have been stalled, again.

Singh – who filed the lawsuit in New York Supreme Court in May 2013 claiming the Tour recklessly administered its anti-doping program when he was suspended, a suspension that was later rescinded – sought to have the circuit sanctioned for what his attorneys argued was a frivolous motion, but judge Eileen Bransten denied the motion earlier this month.

“While the court is of the position it correctly denied the Tour’s motion to argue, the court does not agree that the motion was filed in bad faith nor that it represents a ‘persistent pattern of repetitive or meritless motions,’” Bransten said.

It also doesn’t appear likely the case will go to trial any time soon, with Bransten declining Singh’s request for a pretrial conference until a pair of appeals that have been sent to the court’s appellate division have been decided.

“What really should be done is settle this case,” Bransten said during the hearing, before adding that it is, “unlikely a trail will commence prior to 2019.”

The Tour’s longstanding policy is not to comment on ongoing litigation, but earlier this month commissioner Jay Monahan was asked about the lawsuit.

“I'll just say that we're going through the process,” Monahan said. “Once you get into a legal process, and you've been into it as long as we have been into it, I think it's fair to assume that we're going to run it until the end.”