Japanese Tiger Woods To Tee Off At Riviera

No pressure kid. All you have to do is be the Japanese Tiger Woods.

Ryo Ishikawa came out of nowhere to win on the Japanese tour at age 15. He instantly became a sensation on the island nation, and has won again on that tour at 17. Win at a young age in golf and there is only one person everyone compares you to — and it’s about as fair as young basketball players being compared to Michael Jordan. But now it comes with the territory.

Ishikawa makes his American debut at the Riviera Country Club as he tees off Thursday in the first round of the Northern Trust Open in Los Angeles.

And that fits right in with the Tiger comparisons. Back in 1992 (one year after Ishikawa was born) a 16-year-old Orange County high schooler named Tiger Woods came to Riviera (back when the event was called he Los Angeles Open) to test himself. Woods missed the cut that time around, but since then has gone on to do pretty well for himself.

There are about 100 members of the Japanese media following Ishikawa’s every move around the legendary Pacific Palisades course. And this is just a tune up for the Masters in a few weeks, where he also has an invite to play.

The presence of Ishikawa should divert attention from some of the other players, like defending champion Phil Mickelson, who would probably like not so many people to watch his game lately.

In three tournaments this year he has finished no better than 42nd, and he has missed one cut. Last year was considered an off year — only for someone of his standards, really — with just two wins.

But one of those was at Riviera, so there is hope that if he is going to turn it around and give the fans a name they know and love atop the leaderboard.

Unless Ishikawa is about to become that kind of name.

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