Horrible start: Ishikawa stumbles to 15-over 85
JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – One week after nearly being atop the golf world, Ryo Ishikawa found himself resting under water.
Well, not literally, but certainly that’s where his golf balls were – five of them, to be exact. That’s right, five – and on the first nine holes.
2011 PGA Championship (Rd. 1)
Check out photos from the first round of the 2011 PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club
It was a humbling tour of Atlanta Athletic Club’s back nine for the 19-year-old, whose stunning 10-over 45 in the first round of the PGA Championship left him wanting to exit into the locker room at the turn (he started on the back) and return to Japan. Instead, he was off to the first tee to try and find some way to salvage the season’s last major championship.
He improved, but only slightly. With a bogey, double-bogey, double-bogey stretch at Nos. 2, 3 and 4, Ishikawa posted 40 on the front, shot 85 and was four strokes higher than the next-worst score from the morning wave.
Perhaps the most incredible thing was this: Ishikawa sat himself in a chair, protected from the scorching sun by a black umbrella, and spent 30 minutes talking with the Japanese media. That's right, he gave an interview to describe how he went from nearly winning a World Golf Championship last week to imitating a 16-handicapper.
"I'm in the process of a swing change," Ishikawa said. "Last week it went well. This can still happen, though. It's not a surprise."
Shocking stuff, but in Adam Scott, Ishikawa had a playing competitor who could come to the teenager's defense.
"I definitely feel for him today," Scott said. "I've been in a similar position. When you get it going like that, you can't stop it. But he'll be fine. He's already a great champion."
Ishikawa hit balls into the water at the par-4 11th, par-3 15th, par-3 17th, then two at the par-4 18th. It was painful to watch and looked even more dramatic, given that his playing competitors, Scott (1-under 69) and Matteo Manassero (68) played well.
Now bad as it was, the young man also got a bad break at the 15th. Taking a drop, Ishikawa hit a beautiful third shot, but it hit the flagstick and spun back about 45 feet. That led to a triple-bogey 6.
He then failed to carry the water on a 207-yard shot at the 17th, and on 18th he pulled his drive badly. Splash. Taking several minutes to ponder where to drop, Ishikawa moved back where it would have been about a 240-yard shot, before settling on something in the vicinity of 210. That shot also fell short and got wet.
To put Ishikawa’s 45 into perspective, consider that at last week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, he needed just 64 strokes to play a demanding Firestone Country Club South Course in the third round. He followed up with a closing 69 as he chased Scott to the finish line before tying for fourth.
With that performance, Ishikawa put himself into the equation as observerse talked about possible winners at AAC. Also riding this week was Ishikawa possibly earning enough money to qualify for PGA Tour membership in 2012.
That appears to be out of the question now.
More likely, Ishikawa was just happy that he didn't run out of golf balls.