AUGUSTA, Ga. – Ryo Ishikawa understands that whatever pressure he faces this week at the Masters doesn’t even compare with what his people in Japan are facing as they try to recover from the earthquake and tsunami that destroyed so many lives.
Even so, the 19-year-old has been around long enough to appreciate the role sports can play.
That was one reason Ishikawa decided last week to donate all of his 2011 earnings on the golf course to relief efforts. The money itself, which could be in the range of $2.2 million if he has the kind of season he did in 2010, is a small amount in the big picture.
He hopes the message is what comes across.
“I would like to emphasize the power and energy that sports can create for those people to encourage them, and also it’s my intention to play really well,” he said Monday. “It will be the best way to encourage people in Japan.”
Ishikawa has not been home since the March 11 devastation. He played three straight PGA Tour event in Florida, then drove up to Augusta. His family flew in from Japan to meet him.
He had said during the Florida swing that his mind was on golf, yet his heart was at home as the Japanese try to recover. But he made clear Monday that he would not be distracted by anything except golf while at Augusta National.
Besides, the better he players, the more money for the relief efforts. Along with donating his entire earnings, Ishikawa has pledged about $1,200 for each birdie in competition.
“Right now, since my big decision, I’m 100 percent for playing golf,” he said. “I believe that as I play, I’m connected with the people that are affected by the disaster through the donation, whatever I earn for this year. And that’s why I am fully devoting myself to golf.”
Now comes the hard part.
Ishikawa is a nine-time winner in Japan, once as a 15-year-old amateur, once by shooting 58 in the final round. That hasn’t translated in America, where he has made only nine cuts in 19 events, his best finish a tie for ninth in the Match Play Championship last year.
“I haven’t been producing the results, but at the same time, I know that I am playing well,” he said. “I know what I’m doing is right at this point. And I would like to show to the American people how well I can play.”
MASTERS TICKETS: Daily tickets for the Masters will be available for the first time starting in 2012.
Augusta National chairman Billy Payne said Tuesday that a small number of daily tickets would be available, although the club does not disclose how many. The price for a daily ticket is $75, while a practice round ticket costs $50.
Until now, a weekly badge was the only ticket for tournament rounds.
Meantime, the Masters has moved its application process online for tickets. Applications are being accepted at www.masters.com with a June 30 deadline for daily tournament tickets and a July 30 deadline for practice round tickets. The limit is two tournament tickets for any one day and four practice round tickets for any one day.
Applicants will be notified by e-mail within several weeks after the deadline.
The Masters also said the waiting list for a weekly badge, which reopened briefly in 2000, has been exhausted.
BO AND BOB: Among the questions being asked of players on Monday under the oak tree was what makes the Masters special.
The answer was on the other side of the clubhouse.
Mark Chaney, the caddie for Bo Van Pelt, was sitting alone on the bench when an 82-year-old man in a pink shirt asked if he could join him. It was Bob Goalby, who won the Masters in 1968. This was his 53rd consecutive trip to the Masters.
The stories began to flow.
Goalby talked about the practice routine at the Masters back in his day, how everyone came over from Greensboro because prize money was so low that no one could afford to skip many events.
Van Pelt showed up a few minutes later and he was introduced to Goalby. Van Pelt knew the name well. Meeting the man was a treat. With more stories – the Ryder Cup, practicing with Ben Hogan, the rivalry of Hogan and Sam Snead – Van Pelt listened and laughed.
This doesn’t happen at any other major.
Goalby held court for close to an hour when he realized he was running late for a lunch appointment. Van Pelt finally headed off to the practice range and then to play the course. It was a good start to his day.
NICKLAUS REVISITED: CBS Sports is planning another Sunday special that looks back at the Masters, this one involving Jack Nicklaus. Only it’s not the Masters victory everyone is talking about this year.
Some might argue it’s even better.
Jim Nantz will revisit the 1975 Masters, featuring the dramatic back nine battle involving Nicklaus, Tom Weiskopf and Johnny Miller. The signature moment was Nicklaus holing a 40-foot birdie putt on the 16th hole, raising his putter and running off in celebration as Weiskopf and Miller watched from the tee.
“This is a rare mulligan for people to look back and experience this historic tournament,” Nantz said. “It is a privilege to bring back the 1975 Masters, considered by many golf purists to have been the most dramatic final round in the history of this storied event.”
Most Nicklaus memories this year are from his 1986 victory, when he shot 30 on the back nine to win a sixth green jacket at age 46. This is the 25-year anniversary of that win, which has been well-documented. Nantz did a special on that in 2006.
Nantz also produced a color version of Arnold Palmer’s 1960 win.