Teen stars Ishikawa Noh set for showdown in Japan


KOBE, Japan – Teenage stars Ryo Ishikawa of Japan and Noh Seung-yul of South Korea will be aiming to meet in the final round of this weekend’s Asia-Pacific Panasonic Open.

The two 19-year-olds first played against each other as juniors five years ago before establishing themselves as the rising stars of Asian golf.

They will be competing again at the $1.7 million tournament at the Rokko Kokusai Golf Club jointly sanctioned by the Asian Tour and the Japan Golf Tour.

Noh, who turned professional in 2007, was drawn with Japanese great Jumbo Ozaki in the first round while Ishikawa will be paired with Australia’s Andrew Dodt.

“I hope we can play together in the last round,” Noh said. “It will be very exciting. The last time we played in the same group was in the Korean Open last year where he shot a couple of strokes better than me.”

Ishikawa has won twice on the Japanese tour this year, most recently at the Fujisankei Classic earlier this month.

“I’m going to try to get into contention,” Ishikawa said. “My game is getting very good, especially my driving which is feeling very good.”

Noh won this year’s Malaysian Open in March, a tournament which was co-sanctioned by both the Asian and European tours. The win made Noh the second youngest winner on the European Tour.

With eight career titles already, Ishikawa has established himself as the biggest attraction on the Japanese tour since Ozaki, who has 94 wins in Japan.

Ishikawa turned professional in 2008 after becoming the youngest winner of a men’s regular tournament on the Japan Golf Tour by winning the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup at the age of 15 years and 8 months in 2007.

In May, he shot a 12-under 58 in the final round of the Crowns for the lowest score ever on a major tour.

Fifteen of the top-20 players from the Asian Tour’s merit list are in this weekend’s field.

Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat, coming off a fourth-place finish at the Sept. 7-10 Canon Open in Japan, is also competing along with defending champion Daisuke Maruyama of Japan.

Japan’s Yuta Ikeda, who won the Canon Open, South Korea’s Bae Sang-moon and 2008 Panasonic Open champion Hideto Tanihara are also taking part.