Thursday, February 19, 2009

Welcome to the Club, Ryo!

Today marks 17-year-old Ryo Ishikawa's international debut as a professional golfer. So let's go through the checklist:

  • Compared to a "rock star" by the New York Times? American media obsession with the size of the Japanese media contingent following him? Ai Miyazato says, "check."
  • Characterized as the best hope for international success from a Japanese golfer in generations? Momoko Ueda says, "check."
  • Just hoping to make cuts and learn from his experience competing professionally in the States for the first time? Mika Miyazato says, "check."

Somehow I doubt his rookie year on the PGA Tour, whenever it comes, will see him overshadowed the way 11-time JLPGA winner Shiho Oyama has been so far this season on the LPGA, though.

Gambatte, Ryo!

[Update 1 (5:14 pm): Look, it's nice of Ron Kroichick to link the LPGA and PGA like I do, but I'm not sure how relevant the Michelle Wie comparison is. Why not someone like Vicky Hurst, who like Ryo-kun has won multiple times on a lower-tier tour, if not go in the Miyazato-Ueda-Oyama direction I did? But there is a factor to consider that bolsters Kroichick's advice and cautionary comparisons that he didn't mention: where there's literally a global youth movement in women's golf, you can count on the fingers of one hand male teenagers who have what it takes to compete week in and week out with the men on the PGA Tour. Ishikawa (and McIlroy, and I guess Fujikawa, too) are really bucking a trend--or perhaps starting a new one. But you'd need both hands and your feet, too, to keep up with all the talented teenagers and under-22s in the world of women's golf.]

[Update 2 (5:20 pm): Tod Leonard's deflating of media hype is welcome and mostly to the point as well as pointed. Let's see how Ryo-kun does in this trial balloon--I think he's approaching it from the perspective of seeing what he needs to work on for the rest of the season and how he handles the pressure and expectations and responsibilities. I do think the JLPGA is a lot closer to the LPGA, if not as deep, and that there's a far bigger gap between the two men's tours. But I think Ishikawa will do better than Leonard predicts, despite his tough start today, over the course of his American travels.]

[Update 3 (7:25 pm): Color Bob Smiley impressed with Ryo's potential and progress to date.]

[Update 4 (2/22/09, 11:01 am): Steve Elling gets it right just how far Ryo has to go, but I think he goes too far when he suggests that Ai Miyazato's results on the LPGA have been mediocre. Yes, she has 4 top 3s in 70 starts (including last week's) on the LPGA (not 47, as Elling states), but 18 top 10s is nothing to sneer at--only 3 players in her generation have more at this early stage in their careers. If he's willing to withhold judgment on Ishikawa, he should adopt a similar wait-and-see attitude with Miyazato. The best is yet to come.]

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