Ryo Ishikawa a prince who wants to rule golf

By Doug FergusonAugust 11, 2010, 12:23 am

2010 PGA ChampionshipSHEBOYGAN, Wis. – The first crush of photographers chased after Tiger Woods on his way to the practice range in his first tournament back from knee surgery. Then came another commotion of cameras.

This was for Ryo Ishikawa, who was nothing more than an alternate in the Match Play Championship.

Woods and Ishikawa met for the first time that morning in February 2009. They first played together later that summer at Turnberry, where there Japanese teen idol was three shots better than golf’s superpower, although both wound up missing the cut. At the Presidents Cup, the only two matches the 18-year-old Ishikawa lost were to Woods and Steve Stricker.

A few months ago, Woods paused from a session on the range at the TPC Sawgrass when Ishikawa’s name came up.

“People don’t have any idea how good this kid is,” he said. “He’s got what it takes.”

Outside Japan, not many people would have reason to know.

Ishikawa won the money title last year on the Japan Golf Tour, about five months before he graduated high school. The first of his seven victories in Japan came when he was a 15-year-old amateur, making him the youngest to win on a sanctioned tour. And he made more history in May by closing with a 58 to win The Crowns tournament.

Perhaps even more remarkable is that he has achieved all this under a microscope only Woods can appreciate.

Geoff Ogilvy was playing in the Taiheiyo Masters in late 2007 when he saw a mass of media moving across the putting green, holding cameras overhead while walking backward, scrambling for position.

“It was way over and above what Tiger ever has had following him across a putting green,” Ogilvy said. “I asked one of the Australian guys who plays in Japan, ‘Who’s this guy?’ And he said, ‘This is the kid who’s going to save the Japanese tour.’ This guy was mega a long time before anyone knew him.”

Ishikawa was known then as “Hanikami Oji,” which translates to the “Bashful Prince.”

The trick now is to conquer beyond his borders. This will be the measure of greatness, and Ishikawa already is aware of this.

Over the last three years, he has made nearly a dozen trips from his home in Saitama to visit whom he considers Japan’s greatest player, Jumbo Ozaki, who won 113 times in his career. Only one of those wins, the New Zealand PGA, was outside Japan.

“I practice in front of him,” said Ishikawa, speaking in English until it becomes too much of a burden. “He gave great advice.”

Some of that is instruction. Ozaki played baseball before taking up golf, and he has had Ishikawa hit a baseball off the tee to help him generate more power with his golf swing. Ishikawa showed enough power in the third round of the U.S. Open when he hit a driver on the par-4 fourth hole to about 15 feet from the pin.

The other advice pertains to his future.

Ishikawa has asked Ozaki about his reputation for never winning on the biggest stage.

“He said, ‘I couldn’t play well in international tournaments,’ but he expects me to show a good performance outside Japan,” Ishikawa said through his agent, Jumpei Kaneko. “He told me he wanted me to show a good performance in the United States.”

Progress has been slow.

In his first year playing in America, Ishikawa made only two cuts in five starts, and his best was a tie for 56th in the PGA Championship. This year, he advanced to the third round of the Match Play Championship, winning his opening match with a shot that shows why this kid is worth watching. He birdied his last three holes to beat Michael Sim of Australia, including a fairway bunker shot to 2 feet on the 17th.

He was tied for second after the second round of the U.S. Open until he stumbled to a 75 to fall out of contention. He had his best finish in a major last month at St. Andrews when he tied for 27th in the British Open.

His next opportunity starts Thursday at Whistling Straits for the PGA Championship.

Pressure?

Ishikawa has been dealing with larger-than-life expectations since he was 15. He speaks after each round, and knows most in the media by name. After opening with a 71 at Firestone, he pulled up a white chair and sat in the middle of 15 reporters, patiently taking all their questions until there was nothing left to ask. He does this after every round.

For someone with so much star power – in a newspaper poll in January he was voted Japan’s second-most popular athlete behind Ichiro Suzuki – Ishikawa has an amazing sense of responsibility.

“Great player, great kid, great future,” said Camilo Villegas, who played with Ishikawa three years ago in Japan.

Ishikawa is trying to speak English, believing it will make him feel more comfortable around the world, and feeling more comfortable can only translate to better golf. That’s what helped make Se Ri Pak such a star on the LPGA Tour. Perhaps that’s what held back Ozaki.

He no longer goes by “Bashful Prince,” for there is nothing bashful about a kid who has a cartoon image of his face stamped on his golf balls, who is not afraid to dress in the brightest shades of red, orange, green or his Smurf-blue outfit at Pebble Beach.

Ishikawa gave up on trying to get Americans to properly pronounce his first name. It’s a bit of a linguistic twister on this side of the Pacific: “Yo,” but said at blurring speed. Instead, he goes by “Rio” in the States. More important is that Americans remember his golf.

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Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test

By Will GrayDecember 12, 2017, 11:30 pm

One day after receiving a one-year suspension from the PGA Tour for failing to provide a sample for a drug test, Mark Hensby offered details on the events that led to his missed test in October.

Hensby, 46, released a statement explaining that the test in question came after the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship, where the Aussie opened with a 78. Frustrated about his play, Hensby said he was prepared to give a blood sample but was then informed that the test would be urine, not blood.

"I had just urinated on the eighth hole, my 17th hole that day, and knew that I was probably unable to complete the urine test for at least a couple more hours," Hensby said. "I told this gentleman that I would complete the test in the morning prior to my early morning tee time. Another gentleman nearby told me that 'they have no authority to require me to stay.' Thus, I left."

Hensby explained that he subsequently received multiple calls and texts from PGA Tour officials inquiring as to why he left without providing a sample and requesting that he return to the course.

"I showed poor judgment in not responding," said Hensby, who was subsequently disqualified from the tournament.

Hensby won the 2004 John Deere Classic, but he has missed six cuts in seven PGA Tour starts over the last two years. He will not be eligible to return to the Tour until Oct. 26, 2018.

"Again, I made a terrible decision to not stay around that evening to take the urine test," Hensby said. "Obviously in hindsight I should have been more patient, more rational and taken the test. Call me stupid, but don't call me a cheater. I love the game. I love the integrity that it represents, and I would never compromise the values and qualities that the game deserves."

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Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

“I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

“I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.


Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year


A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.


Masters victory


Article: Garcia defeats Rose to win Masters playoff

Article: Finally at peace: Garcia makes major breakthrough

Article: Garcia redeems career, creates new narrative


Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ


Green jacket tour

Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

Article: Garcia with fiancée, green jacket at Wimbledon

Article: Watch: Garcia kicks off El Clasico in green jacket


Man of the people


Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

Article: Fan finally caddies for Sergio after asking 206 times

Article: Sergio donates money for Texas flood relief


Article: Connelly, Garcia paired years after photo together


Ace at 17th at Sawgrass


Growing family

Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

Article: Garcia, wife expecting first child in March 2018


Departure from TaylorMade


Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade


Squashed beef with Paddy

Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

Article: Sergio, Padraig had 'great talk,' are 'fine'


Victory at Valderrama


Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm