LA JOLLA, Calif. – International Sports Management, the agency headed by Chubby Chandler, is spreading its influence to the United States. ISM has hired Steve Zika as its U.S.-based director of player relations, Zika told Golfweek.
Zika had worked for Ping for more than a dozen years, most recently as a tournament player relations manager.
Zika will assist ISM’s players, which include Lee Westwood, Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen, when they play in the United States. ISM also is looking to represent more American players.
ISM already has an expanding stable of U.S. players. It represents LPGA player Christina Kim, as well as Peter Uihlein and Ben An, the 2010 and 2009 U.S. Amateur champions (An was born in South Korea, but has lived in the United States since he was 15).
Other Americans in the ISM stable include Scott Pinckney, who turned pro last year and earned a European Tour card, and Dodge Kemmer, who became the first American to win on the EuroPro Tour. Kemmer recently earned his card at Asian Tour Q-School.
Zika will begin working for ISM at the WGC-Accenture Match Play.
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Ryo Ishikawa is making his second PGA Tour start of this early season, playing the Farmers Insurance Open on a sponsor exemption. Ishikawa, No. 51 in the world ranking, missed the cut at the Sony Open.
Ishikawa had never played the Sony or Farmers Insurance Open before. There’s two reasons why he made his debut at each event. He needs to crack the top 50 to earn exemptions into the Masters and WGC-Cadillac Championship. He needs to play the PGA Tour because the Japan Tour does not begin until April.
Ishikawa also is looking at playing the maximum 12 PGA Tour events allowed by a non-member. He has made 10 starts each of the past two years, highlighted by a fourth at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Ishikawa also will play the Northern Trust Open and Transitions Championship, and the WGC-Match Play Championship, should he remain in the top 64 in the world.
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Matthew Giles will add to his good memories this week at Torrey Pines. Giles won the 2006 Junior World at the South Course. He’ll make his PGA Tour debut here this week. Giles, a former first-team All-American at USC, Monday qualified for this week’s Farmers Insurance Open.
Giles finished 93rd on last year’s Nationwide Tour money list and will have conditional status on that tour in 2012.
Paul Imondi, Cody Slover and Bio Kim also advanced out of the Monday qualifying. Kim, 21, was the youngest member of last year’s PGA Tour. He finished 162nd on the money list and will have Nationwide Tour status in 2012.
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Jamie Lovemark, the 2010 Nationwide Tour player of the year, is making his second PGA Tour start after a lengthy layoff because of back surgery.
Lovemark tied for 66th at last week’s Humana Challenge, his first PGA Tour start since he withdrew from last April’s Shell Houston Open. He’ll have has 16 events to earn $633,473 to retain his card. Lovemark is still considered a PGA Tour rookie.
Lovemark grew up in nearby Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., and made the cut in this event as an amateur.
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Ben Crane doesn’t fit the stereotype of the player that should excel at Torrey Pines. He ranked 139th in driving distance on the PGA Tour. He has a good record here, though. Crane won the 2010 Farmers Insurance Open, finished 14th here last year and seventh in 2009.
Crane started this season with top-10s at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions and Humana Challenge. Throw in his win at last season’s McGladrey Championship, and Crane has top-10s in three consecutive official PGA Tour events.
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Hunter Mahan, Rickie Fowler and Ernie Els are among the players making their 2012 PGA Tour debuts this week. Mahan (T-4) and Fowler (T-6) are playing for the first time since the Chevron World Challenge.
Els may have made one of the longest commutes to Torrey Pines. He finished second at last week’s Volvo Golf Champions in South Africa, losing a playoff to Branden Grace. Els flew from Florida to San Diego on Wednesday morning, and had a 11:45 a.m. tee time in the pro-am. Els, No. 57 in the Official World Golf Ranking, is not exempt for this year’s Masters.
There’s another interesting debut this week: Neal Lancaster. He finished fifth at the 2009 Q-School to earn his card, but hasn’t played a PGA Tour event since. He had shoulder surgery in 2010. Lancaster will have 23 events to earn $786,977 to retain his PGA Tour card.