Even during practice, Ryo Ishikawa is a favorite subject of multitudes of photographers. (Muhly/AFP/Getty Images)
Japanese teen star Ishikawa braces for new experience
At the age of 17, Ryo Ishikawa has won three times in his native Japan and teed it up in several PGA Tour events. Being paired with Tiger Woods at Turnberry will be another huge first for him.
TURNBERRY, Scotland (AP) -- Ryo Ishikawa has seen so much in such a short time.
The 17-year-old from Japan has been a media sensation since he made history as a 15-year-old, becoming the youngest winner on any tour sanctioned by the Official World Golf Ranking. He has played in Europe and America, rarely without an entire nation watching him either in person or through the hundreds of photographers that follow him.
Turnberry offers an experience unlike any other -- his first test of links golf, his first meeting with Tiger Woods.
“I will try my best,” he said Wednesday morning, the final day of practice before the Open Championship begins on this seaside links.
Ishikawa made his major championship debut in April when he received a special invitation to the Masters, where he missed the cut. He toured both coasts of America in the spring, from Los Angeles to Florida, making only one cut.
Even so, the Japanese media has provided rock star treatment, which should come in handy the first two days. Not only is Ishikawa playing with the world’s No. 1 player and overwhelming favorite at Turnberry, joining them will be Lee Westwood of England, who figures to have plenty of support from the British crowd.
“I don’t think you guys will be out there, will you?” Woods said to reporters.
Woods hasn’t seen Ishikawa play, and they met only briefly at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, where Ishikawa was an alternate and still commanded more media attention than some who actually played that week.
“He certainly has had to deal with a lot at a very young age, and he’s handled it well,” Woods said Tuesday.
That the world’s No. 1 player even mentioned him was a surprise to the teenager.
“It’s unbelievable that Tiger is talking about me,” Ishikawa said. “And it is like a dream come true. Ever since I got into the British Open it’s like a total dream. I’m surprised to see Tiger in the same group.”
Even more surprising is the turf at Turnberry, for links golf is different from anything he has seen in Japan, or anywhere else. Ishikawa was thrilled to get the chance. He was not eligible for golf’s oldest championship, having failed in a qualifier held in Japan.
But he won the Mizuno Open for this third career victory, earning a spot in the field.
“This course is different than what I’m used to,” Ishikawa said. “The greens, wind, bunkers, those make me try different shots, especially around the greens. Needless to say, tomorrow is going to be big day for me.”
The kid isn’t making any brash predictions. He arrived a week ago Wednesday and wants to stay as long as he can.
“My goal is to play four days and make the cut and try to make this tournament as wonderful as it is,” Ishikawa said. “The first two rounds, it’s definitely a dream come true. And it’s important for me to play 36 holes to be in my real world, to play golf.”