Ishikawa pairs with Watson for links lessons

Japan's Ryo Ishikawa walks onto the 17th green at the Old Course in St. Andrews during a practice round at the 139th Open Championship.
Japan's Ryo Ishikawa walks onto the 17th green at the Old Course in St. Andrews during a practice round at the 139th Open Championship. ( Associated Press )

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – Ryo Ishikawa will be reacquainted with legend Tom Watson for the first two rounds of this week’s 150th anniversary Open Championship.

The 18-year-old Japanese phenom also was paired with Watson during last month’s U.S. Open at Pebble Beach when he impressed the 60-year-old American with his array of shots.

“The first thing I like is his putting,” Watson said at Pebble Beach. “He reminds me of me when I was 18 years old. There is no fear. . . Plus he’s got a golf swing to go with it and wonderful touch.”

Playing alongside the five-time Open Championship winner at the Home of Golf will prove an education for Ishikawa, who is still learning his trade, especially in the art of links golf.

Completing the high-profile threesome is Irishman Padraig Harrington, a two-time winner of the Open.

Harrington said this week he agrees with Watson’s assessment.

“(Ishikawa is) a young Tom Watson. . . he just seems to go after a lot, play without fear, which is certainly a trait of Tom Watson,” Harrington said. “I certainly don’t fit into that category whatsoever, but it will be a joy (to play together).”

After his fade down the leaderboard at the U.S. Open, where he finished T-33 after being tied for second, Ishikawa now says he's more confident.

"If winning a major championship is 100 meters away,” Ishikawa said Tuesday, “after the U.S. Open, I'm a little bit closer, like five or six meters, to winning a major championship."

Meanwhile, Noh Seung-yul, another talented Asian teenager, will also be in the company of a major champion who has won at St. Andrews.

Korean Noh was just three when big-hitting American John Daly triumphed over the Old Course in 1995.

In another grouping, Noh’s major-winning compatriot (Y.E.) Yang Yong-eun will play alongside England’s Luke Donald and American Ricky Barnes.