Masters: Ishikawa playing for more than himself

Ryo Ishikawa of Japan looks on during a practice round prior to the 2011 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 4, 2011 in Augusta, Georgia.

Ryo Ishikawa of Japan looks on during a practice round prior to the 2011 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 4, 2011 in Augusta, Georgia.

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AUGUSTA, Ga. – The year’s first major is important to every player in the field, but especially Ryo Ishikawa, who’s trying to play well for the citizens of two countries.

He wants to inspire the people of his homeland, who are still struggling with the effects of last month’s earthquake.

“I believe in the power that sports can bring to those people who are affected by the disaster,” said Ishikawa, No. 45 in the Official World Golf Ranking. “That’s one of the reasons why I decided to donate the entire earnings this year for those people, so that I feel that I am with them and fighting with them side-by-side.

“As I play, I’m connected with the people that are affected by the disaster through the donation. And that’s why I am really fully devoting myself to golf at this point.”

A good showing at Augusta National also would establish Ishikawa as a player of international repute, not just one that can dominate his home tour.

The 19-year-old has won nine times on the Japan Tour, but hasn’t had a top-25 in an official PGA Tour stroke-play event. He has missed the cut in his two previous Masters appearances. He finished 33rd at last year’s U.S. Open and 27th in the Open Championship, his best career major finish.

“Some day I would like to show to the American people how well I can play,” Ishikawa said.

Ishikawa is one of four Japanese players in the Masters field, including Hideki Matsuyama, the Asian Amateur champ. Matsuyama is the first Japanese amateur to compete at Augusta. He also is the second Asian Amateur champion to compete in the Masters. The inaugural Asian Am champ, Chang-Won Han, missed the cut.

Matsuyama attends college in Sendai, one of the cities hit hardest by the earthquake and tsunami.

“I have decided to play because so many people have pushed me,” Matsuyama said. “I have decided to play at the Masters not only for myself, but for the people who have made me who I am.”

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