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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Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.



It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.



Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.



Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.



Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.



After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.



Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.


Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters


Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.

Nathaniel Crosby at the 1983 Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Getty Images

Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 3:19 pm

The USGA announced that former U.S. Amateur champ Nathaniel Crosby will serve as the American captain for the 2019 Walker Cup, which will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.

Crosby, 56, is the son of entertainment icon and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby. He won the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a teenager and earned low amateur honors at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also played in the 1983 Walker Cup, coincidentally held at Royal Liverpool, before embarking on a brief career in professional golf, with his amateur status reinstated in 1994.

"I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," Crosby said in a statement. "Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."

Crosby takes over the captaincy from John "Spider" Miller, who led the U.S. squad both in 2015 and earlier this year, when the Americans cruised to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club.

Crosby is a Florida resident and member at Seminole Golf Club, which will host the 2021 matches. While it remains to be seen if he'll be asked back as captain in 2021, each of the last six American captains have led a team on both home and foreign soil.

Started in 1922, the Walker Cup is a 10-man, amateur match play competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S. team holds a 37-9 all-time lead in the biennial matches but has not won in Europe since 2007.