January 28 2012
LA JOLLA, Calif. -- The first time Ryo Ishikawa played at Torrey Pines, he was 15 years old.
The Japanese phenom -- who had already won as an amateur on the Japan Tour -- had come to the United States to play in the Callaway Junior Worlds. He shot 12 over and finished 17 shots behind the winner, Dylan Fritelli, a South African who is now a senior at the University of Texas.
The media attention, even then, was huge. He told Marc Figueroa of the North County Times prior to the tournament that "I can't go to the shopping mall like I usually do. That's a big thing for me because I like to shop." More than 70 members of the media followed Ishikawa's Monday practice round that week.
Two years later, when he made his PGA TOUR debut at the Northern Trust Open, several hundred Japanese reporters and photographers were on hand to chronicle his exploits that week. Ishikawa, who has won nine times on the Japan Tour, ended up missing the cut at Riviera in 2009.
Ishikawa has gone on to play in 27 TOUR events and has posted two top-10s -- a tie for fourth at last year's World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational and a tie for ninth at the Accenture Match Play Championship in 2010.
Interestingly, though, the buzz appears to have died down a little as less than 20 Japanese media requested credentials for the Farmers Insurance Open this year. But Ishikawa is playing extremely well -- he's currently 3 under through 14 holes on the South Course and at 9 under, one stroke out of a six-way tie for eighth.