More than a caddie: Amazing story of Ishikawa's looper

By Doug FergusonJanuary 13, 2014, 12:01 am

HONOLULU – Simon Clark headed off to Japan to learn the language and enhance his college studies of World War II. He was excited about making his first visit to Pearl Harbor this week when he was able to take a break from his job as the caddie for Ryo Ishikawa.

It's safe to say the last two decades turned out differently from he could have imagined.

''I've been very lucky,'' Clark said.

The 44-year-old Australian is proficient as an author, just not what you might think. While he has written a 10,000-word essay on why the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, Clark is more famous on the Japan Golf Tour for making the yardage books for players and caddies the last 20 years.

He started caddying without any experience and now works for the 22-year-old Ishikawa, who still gets more attention in Japan than any other golfer.

And he still hasn't finished college.

''I still have to do a final review,'' Clark said. ''Look, there's not much I can do with that unless I teach. There's no real career in World War II studies. I tried to join the Air Force but I could never fly jets because I had my knees operated on and they said I couldn't stand the ejections if we had to eject.''

Even so, this has been a wild ride.

It began when Clark wanted to learn a second language and saw an ad in the paper about Japanese country clubs wanting caddies.

''They actually wanted girls, so my wife (Melanie) and I went over,'' he said. ''We worked for six months as house caddies, and I studied Japanese pretty hard. They had this tournament down the road, the Tokai Classic, that Mark O'Meara won. I caddied for a guy named Wayne Smith. And I loved it straightaway.''

Over the years, he has caddied for Graham Marsh, Brendan Jones, Craig Parry, Peter Senior and Bradley Hughes. Now a member at Victoria Golf Club, he was home in Australia when he agreed to work for an American rookie on the LPGA Tour – Jessica Korda – and she went on to win a playoff in the Women's Australian Open.

Caddying, however, became more work than he imagined.

''I noticed the yardage books were not very good, and I'm pretty good at drawing,'' Clark said. ''I started doing them for Todd Hamilton, and he taught me how to do them with technical drawing. Everyone saw them and wanted me to put them out there. I've been doing it right up until this year. I did them for 20 years. I drew them by hand, and then we got to the technical graphic side of them.''

He was in Okinawa at the end of 2012 when Ishikawa's camp asked him to work full-time. Ishikawa, who played in his first Presidents Cup when he was 18, had been using local club caddies and went with a permanent one. And it helped that this caddie spoke Japanese.

That's the odd part of this tale. Clark studied Japanese to help with his studies of World War II, not to work for a Japanese golfer.

''He's an interesting fellow,'' said Matthew ''Bussy'' Tritton, best friends with Clark since they were teenagers and now the caddie for Geoff Ogilvy. ''He was just a student who started off at a golf club. He knew nothing about caddying and then he started making a few books. I was living at Denmark at the time, traveling the world, and he told he to come to Japan to help him make the books. And he's a very good writer.''

His first love never left him. That might have been the best part of Ishikawa playing the Sony Open, even though he missed the cut.

''I can't wait to go to Pearl Harbor,'' Clark said.

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Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.


Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.

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McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.

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Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 pm

The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.

Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.

Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.

Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.