Ishikawa devoted to golf to inspire a nation
Ryo Ishikawa understands that whatever pressure he faces this week at the Masters doesn't even compare with what his people in Japan are facing as they try to recover from the earthquake and tsunami that destroyed so many lives.
Even so, the 19-year-old has been around long enough to appreciate the role sports can play.
That was one reason Ishikawa decided last week to donate all of his 2011 earnings on the golf course to relief efforts. The money itself, which could be in the range of $2.2 million if he has the kind of season he did in 2010, is a small amount in the big picture.
He hopes the message is what comes across.
''I would like to emphasize the power and energy that sports can create for those people to encourage them, and also it's my intention to play really well,'' he said Monday. ''It will be the best way to encourage people in Japan.''
Ishikawa has not been home since the March 11 devastation. He played three straight PGA Tour event in Florida, then drove up to Augusta. His family flew in from Japan to meet him.
He had said during the Florida swing that his mind was on golf, yet his heart was at home as the Japanese try to recover. But he made clear Monday that he would not be distracted by anything except golf while at Augusta National.
Besides, the better he players, the more money for the relief efforts. Along with donating his entire earnings, Ishikawa has pledged about $1,200 for each birdie in competition.
''Right now, since my big decision, I'm 100 percent for playing golf,'' he said. ''I believe that as I play, I'm connected with the people that are affected by the disaster through the donation, whatever I earn for this year. And that's why I am fully devoting myself to golf.''
Now comes the hard part.
Ishikawa is a nine-time winner in Japan, once as a 15-year-old amateur, once by shooting 58 in the final round. That hasn't translated in America, where he has made only nine cuts in 19 events, his best finish a tie for ninth in the Match Play Championship last year.
''I haven't been producing the results, but at the same time, I know that I am playing well,'' he said. ''I know what I'm doing is right at this point. And I would like to show to the American people how well I can play.''