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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NCAA DI Women's Champ.: Scoring, TV times

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 22, 2018, 5:50 pm

The NCAA Division I Women's Golf Championship is underway at Kartsen Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla.

After three days of stroke play, eight teams have advanced to the match-play portion of the championship. Quarterfinals and semifinals will be contested on Tuesday, with the finals being held on Wednesday. Golf Channel is airing the action live.

Wake Forest junior Jennifer Kupcho won the individual title. Click here for live action, beginning at 4 p.m. ET.

Scoring:

TV Times (all times ET):

Tuesday
11AM-conclusion: Match-play quarterfinals (Click here to watch live)
4-8PM: Match-play semifinals

Wednesday
4-8PM: Match-play finals

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Davis: USGA learned from setup errors at Shinnecock

By Will GrayMay 22, 2018, 4:51 pm

With the U.S. Open set to return to Shinnecock Hills for the first time in 14 years, USGA executive director Mike Davis insists that his organization has learned from the setup mistakes that marred the event the last time it was played on the Southampton, N.Y., layout.

Retief Goosen held off Phil Mickelson to win his second U.S. Open back in 2004, but the lasting image from the tournament may have been tournament officials spraying down the seventh green by hand during the final round after the putting surface had become nearly unplayable. With the course pushed to the brink over the first three days, stiff winds sucked out any remaining moisture and players struggled to stay on the greens with 30-foot putts, let alone approach shots.

Speaking to repoters at U.S. Open media day, Davis offered candid reflections about the missteps that led to the course overshadowing the play during that infamous final round.

"I would just say that it was 14 years ago. It was a different time, it was different people, and we as an organzation, we learned from it," Davis said. "When you set up a U.S. Open, it is golf's ultimate test. It's probably set up closer to the edge than any other event in golf, and I think that the difference then versus now is we have a lot more technology, a lot more data in our hands.

"And frankly, ladies and gentlemen, what really happened then was just a lack of water."

Davis pointed to enhancements like firmness and moisture readings for the greens that weren't available in 2004, and he noted that meterological data has evolved in the years since. With another chance to get his hands on one of the USGA's favorite venues, he remains confident that tournament officials will be able to better navigate the thin line between demanding and impossible this time around.

"There are parts that I think we learned from, and so I think we're happy that we have a mulligan this time," Davis said. "It was certainly a bogey last time. In fact maybe even a double bogey, and equitable stroke control perhaps kicked in."

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UCLA junior Vu named WGCA Player of the Year

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 22, 2018, 3:23 pm

UCLA junior Lilia Vu was named Player of the Year on Tuesday by the Women’s Golf Coaches Association (WGCA).

Vu recorded the lowest full-season scoring average (70.37) in UCLA history. Her four tournament wins tied the school record for most victories in a single season.

Vu was also named to the WGCA All-America first team. Here's a look at the other players who joined her on the prestigious list:

WGCA First Team All-Americans

  • Maria Fassi, Junior, University of Arkansas
  • Kristen Gillman, Sophomore, University of Alabama
  • Jillian Hollis, Junior, University of Georgia
  • Cheyenne Knight, Junior, University of Alabama
  • Jennifer Kupcho, Junior, Wake Forest University
  • Andrea Lee, Sophomore, Stanford University
  • Leona Maguire, Senior, Duke University
  • Sophia Schubert, Senior, University of Texas
  • Lauren Stephenson, Junior, University of Alabama
  • Maddie Szeryk, Senior, Texas A&M University
  • Patty Tavatanakit, Freshman, UCLA
  • Lilia Vu, Junior, UCLA
Chris Stroud and caddie Casey Clendenon Getty Images

Stroud's caddie wins annual PGA Tour caddie tournament

By Rex HoggardMay 22, 2018, 3:15 pm

Casey Clendenon, who caddies for Chris Stroud, won the gross division of the annual PGA Tour caddie tournament on Monday, shooting a 5-under 66 at Trinity Forest Golf Club, site of last week’s AT&T Byron Nelson.

Scott Tway (65), who caddies for Brian Harman, won the net division by two strokes over Wayne Birch, Troy Merritt’s caddie.

Kyle Bradley, Jonathan Byrd’s caddie, took second place with a 71 in the gross division.

The tournament was organized by the Association of Professional Tour Caddies, and proceeds from the event went to two charities. The APTC donated $20,000 to Greg Chalmers’ charity, MAXimumChances.org, which aids families living with autism. The association also donated $10,000 to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.