The youth movement in golf isn’t just coming, it’s here.
The Young Turks aren’t a novelty anymore.
Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Rickie Fowler seem to be in the mix every week and now they’ve been joined by the Japanese sensation, Ryo Ishikawa.
All of them were born after The Simpsons debuted on television and all find themselves in the top 10 at the Bridgestone Invitational and all with a real chance to win on Sunday given the bunched leaderboard.
What’s interesting is that while they may all speak in reverential tones about the greatness of Tiger Woods – the hero of their boyhoods – they’re beating him like the proverbial drum after Woods’ comeback stalled with a third-round 72 that left him at 1 over par for the tournament, in a tie for 38th.
Meanwhile, Adam Scott’s 30 and he’s the old man atop the leaderboard.
The amiable Australian protested after Saturday’s 66 — a fine effort that catapulted him to 12 under par going into the final round — that he doesn’t “feel old.”
“I still act like a teenager sometimes,” he said.
But Ishikawa still, at 19, is a teenager, though he may not act like one.
“I first saw him in Japan when he was 15 and he had already won an event over there,” Scott said.
“This kid is really amazing.
“I feel like he’s even more under the microscope (in Japan than Woods is in the US) and he handles it so well. He’s very mature.”
Ishikawa — who was the last player to qualify for this World Golf Championships event — shot 64 on Saturday and, for the first time in his fledgling career, has a chance to win on American soil.
He’s won 10 times in Japan but in 20 events in the US, his best finish was a tie for 20th at this year’s Masters.
“For me it was a little bit hard to control the mental side of the game, and they were difficult times for me,” he admitted of playing in the US.
“You feel that sense of loneliness playing out there being away from where you were born or where you were raised.
“But since the Masters, it has started to become fun, actually fun to play here.”
He certainly had fun Saturday, though he said he surprised himself given that his form’s been inconsistent of late.
“The golf that I’m playing right now is unstable in a sense, and so considering that, I’m not really sure as to how I will perform tomorrow, to be honest with you.”
However he fares, the winners will be his people.
Ishikawa has pledged all the prize money he wins this year to his country‘s tsunami relief fund. He‘s also giving about $1,000 for every birdie he makes. He‘s donated almost $1 million so far.
“That’s an incredibly generous gesture from a young man,” said Scott.
“It’s nice to see. It probably inspires a lot of other people to give generously, too.
“He should be proud of himself and Japan should be really proud of him.”
Ishikawa, however, didn’t seem as if he was doing anything special. More like he was just doing his duty.
Japan, he said, “is still a devastating situation.”
“There are people that have no homes right now, and we actually don’t know how long it’s going to take for Japan to recover,” he said. “So I would just like to give my support.”
And that’s what these young players have in common, too.
They’re not just great players but they’re decent human beings. They seem to appreciate how lucky they are to be paid millions of dollars to play a game most of us pay to play.
Scott marveled at how patient Ishikawa is with the media.
After every round, the teenager is given a fold-out chair and sits down with at least a dozen journalists from his country and patiently answers their questions.
“What goes on outside here on the chair, I can’t imagine,” said Scott, shaking his head.
“Most people would have gone nuts by now.
“He handles it so well. I think he is really, genuinely a great person.”
And if there was any doubt about how the sands of time have passed in golf, consider Day’s response when he was asked about rivalries between the young stars.
“It’s good for the game,” he said.
“In every sport there’s a rivalry whether it’s teams or players; it makes it better for the game.
“It’s like the Phil and Tiger rivalry back in the day.”
Back in the day. What was that, all the way back in 2009?