Thursday, January 22, 2009

This year’s Masters will feature a boy wonder. The Masters Tournament issued an invitation to Ryo Ishikawa, a 17-year-old Japanese phenom who won a Japan Golf Tour event as an amateur in his debut when he was only 15.
Ishikawa, who is being called the Japanese Tiger by the Japanese media, has already scored two exemptions to play in America — the Northern Trust Open at Riviera Country Club and the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill. The Masters invite was announced Thursday.

Late last year, he became the youngest player to crack the top 100 in the World Golf Rankings. Ishikawa currently ranks 60th. He is the second-highest-ranked Japanese pro behind Shingo Katayama, who is 34th.
Ishikawa won’t be the youngest Masters entrant ever. He’ll be 17 years, 6 months and 23 days old in April. Tommy Jacobs was 17 years, 1 months and 21 days when he competed in the 1952 Masters.

When he won the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup in 2007, Ishikawa was 15 years, 8 months and posted a final-round 66. He surpassed the mark for previous youngest tour winner by a wide margin — Seve Ballesteros, who was 20 years, 7 months old when he captured the 1977 Japan Open.

Ishikawa turned pro last year and won his second Japan tour event in November. He also won the 2008 Kansai Open. His nickname is Hanikami Oji, which translates to "Bashful Prince."

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