Date: January 11, 2009

Ishikawa provides teenage kicks

He may have won only half a point as Asia moved to the verge of a first victory over Europe in The Royal Trophy, but Japanese teenager Ryo Ishikawa has thrilled his adoring followers at Amata Spring Country Club near Bangkok. Hordes of fans and Japanese media have watched every minute the 17-year-old, known as the &aposShy Prince&apos, has spent in the practice area, followed his every stroke on the immaculate 7,470-yard layout and held their breath on his every word. And Ishikawa, who aged 15 years and eight months became the youngest winner of a men&aposs tour event with victory in the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup in May 2007, does not appear at all phased by the attention. “I appreciate the crowd&aposs support, 100 percent,” the world No.60 said. “Their support is good for me.” Asian captain Joe Ozaki has selected his compatriot in the opening match for each of the first two days. Ishikawa, alongside playing partner Toru Taniguchi, lost the foursomes on day one to Soren Hansen and Paul Lawrie but exacted a measure of revenge by coming from behind to claim a half in the four-balls on day two. The Saitama-born prodigy holed a 50-foot putt on the par-four seventh and his birdie on the 617-yard, par-five 16th was crucial as Asia surged into a 6 1/2-1 1/2 advantage heading into the final day&aposs singles duels. Ishikawa has again been chosen to lead out his team-mates and will face Denmark&aposs Hansen in the opening singles contest, with Asia requiring just two points to win the third edition of the event. “The presence of Ishikawa in the first match gives the Asian team strong momentum and spirit,” said Ozaki. Ishikawa&aposs opening Japan Tour win shattered the previous record held by none other than Seve Ballesteros – the visionary behind The Royal Trophy – who won the 1977 Japan Open at 20 years and seven months. Five-time major winner and matchplay magician Ballesteros is absent from the Ryder Cup-style event following surgery on a brain tumour, but his close friend Jose Maria Olazabal has stepped in as captain. The 42-year-old is well qualified to judge young players, having made his Ryder Cup debut aged 21 before enjoying a lucrative career which has included two Masters titles. Olazabal has been impressed by Ishikawa but cautioned against heaping too much expectation on his young shoulders. “I hadn&apost seen him play before this week but he has some potential,” said the Spaniard. “His short game is pretty good, his putting is extremely good – he has made some crucial putts – and he hits it long off the tee.” “He has the game and the character, for sure, but there is a long way ahead of him – I don&apost think he should be rushed to do things.” “The media should allow him to have his private soul and not push him too quickly.” Scores from Day 2 of the Royal Trophy Ishikawa / Taniguchi (Asia) & Hansen / Lawrie (Europe) tied Wi / Liang (Asia) def. Dougherty / WIlson (Europe) 3 & 2 Tanihara / Ho (Asia) def. Fasth / Edfors (Europe) 2 &1 Jaidee / Marksaeng (Asia) def. Larrazabal / McGinley (Europe) 4 & 2 Asia leads Europe 6.5 to 1.5