|Relentlessly Stylish Ryo photo: callawayapparel.jp|
Youthful achievers fascinate fans, and as a result they often inspire the proverbial "media frenzy", which brings with it the prospect of lucrative sponsorship deals.
But precipitous fame can be distracting, and a global golf career implies an exhausting travel schedule. Then comes the inevitable winless spell.
The stretch can last a year or two... or ten... it can come after multiple major wins or a handful of tournament victories, but either way, it's a burden for the player to bear. Once the long awaited win finally comes we hear the word relaunch... even when the player in question is implausibly young. This is certainly the case for one of our favorite golfers... a golfer we've written about on many occasions: Japan's Ryo Ishikawa.
As a 15 year old amateur... in his first tour appearance... he won the Munsingwear Open KSB and became the youngest ever to win on the Japanese Men's Tour. From there, his rise was meteoric; Ryo Ishikawa was soon being called Japan's Tiger Woods and hailed as the face of golf in Japan.
The ensuing years brought multiple wins on the Japan Tour, and in 2008 the newly christened Bashful Prince became the youngest player ever to reach the top 100 of the Official World Golf rankings, in 2009, the youngest ever to reach the top 50. MORE -->
|Ryo Ishikawa on a roll Via Callawaymedia.com|
His first taste of the majors followed with an invite to the Masters and one to the Open Championship at Turnberry. He missed the cut in both cases but made it later in the season at the PGA Championship where he finished T56.
In the years that followed Ishikawa experienced highs and lows both on and off the course; in 2010 his score of 58 in the final round of The Crowns was the lowest ever on any major golf tour and made headlines around the world, then a couple of months later he found himself tied for second in round 2 of the US Open at Pebble Beach, but ultimately fell back during the weekend to finish T33.
A 19-year-old Ishikawa was in the US for the Cadillac World Golf Championship at Doral when news broke of Japan's 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. It was one of the most devastating natural disasters in history and the golf star reacted by donating his entire 2011 tournament earnings... plus a bonus for each birdie... to relief efforts. A year later Ishikawa finished 2nd at the Puerto Rico Open and became a member of the PGA Tour but wins on US soil have so far eluded him and his 2012 victory at the Taiheiyo Masters marked the beginning of the dreaded winless streak.
Today however, Ryo Ishikawa is preparing to play at Royal Liverpool in the 2014 Open Championship. His recent Japan Tour win, in a three way payoff at the Sega Sammy Cup, not only ends a winless spell of nearly two years, it also gained him entree into the 2014 Open Championship as an alternate. His spot was confirmed with Steve Stricker's withdrawal several days ago. Which brings us back to the career relaunch. "Japan's 'Tiger' on the Prowl Again After Ending Drought" was the headline given to a AFP dispatch published at Yahoo News a couple of days ago. On Monday the Japanese press quoted Ishikawa as saying, "Hopefully, now I can break through at the world level". Call it a relaunch or just call it a young gun's right of passage, either way, Ryo Ishikawa's many avid fans were never in doubt.
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