The Masters 2011 Tournament is finally here, and all anyone can talk about is Tiger Woods. Tiger Woods. Tiger Woods. If the whoremonger ladies' man has made it hard to summon up any excitement for the goings on in Augusta this year, hold on. Good news is here. His name is Ryo Ishikawa, and he's already secured his spot as the star of the tournament.
So what if it's just the beginning of the tournament. The teenager -- he's 19 -- has dedicated all his winnings from 2011 to the relief efforts in Japan, including anything he bags at the Masters. To borrow a word from Tiger's fellow, um, ladies' man Charlie Sheen: WINNING!
The teenaged Ishikawa was born and raised in Japan, and he got his start on the pro-golf circuit on the island nation after becoming the youngest winner ever of a men's regular tournament on the Japan Golf Tour at 15 years and 8 months back in May 2007. He turned pro at 16 the following year, and he was ranked third among Japanese golfers in terms of money earned last year.
This year will represent Ishikawa's third attempt to make the cut at the U.S. Masters. It's hard to say what his chances are. He's not officially ranked on the PGA Tour because he hasn't completed the minimum number of rounds. He's listed as first only in GIR Percentage - 200+ yards.
But Ishikawa isn't playing for glory this time around. He's playing for country, and that's the kind of drive that can motivate a player unlike any other. Think the U.S. National Hockey Team back in 1980, the "miracle on ice" boys who kicked the Soviets' butts during the Cold War to advance to the gold medal match. They were talented hockey players, sure, but they were nowhere near the level of the Soviet team. But they won because it was about something greater than just the game. And it didn't hurt that they were all young players, college age, not much older than Ishikawa. They had that kid's sense that "I'm invincible; I can do this, and no one can stop me!"
In addition to any prize winnings, Ishikawa says he'll donate an extra 100,000 yen (more than $1,000 American) for every birdie he makes in Augusta. Here's hoping he has one at every hole!
Will you be rooting for Ishikawa to take the Masters?
Image via johntrainor/Flickr