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Ryo Ishikawa causing huge media interest

A record number of golf reporters is expected to cover next week’s Northern Trust Open mainly because the tournament will feature Japan’s Ryo Ishikawa, organisers said on Wednesday.

Schoolboy sensation Ishikawa, already one of the biggest sporting celebrities in his homeland, will make his debut on the PGA Tour in the Feb. 19-22 event at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, California.

“We’re still a few days away from the tournament and we’ve already credentialled 144 outlets and 375 media,” Toby Zwikel, media manager for the event, told Reuters.

“This is our largest ever number and compares to a total of 106 outlets and 346 media in 2008. When all is said and done, I’m sure we will have at least 400 media at Riviera.”

When world number one Tiger Woods last played at Riviera in 2006, the media numbers totalled 209.

“When we learned that between 100 and 200 Japanese media covered Ishikawa playing in the world junior championship in San Diego last year, we figured there was no way our existing media tent could cover all those people,” said Zwikel.

“So we decided to expand the tent and it is considerably bigger than anything we have had before. It is 60 feet longer and a little bit wider.”

Zwikel said the Ishikawa factor had more than made up for the drop in numbers of U.S. and Canadian golf reporters covering the event.

“No doubt due to the economy and budgets, we don’t have as many domestic and Canadian media as we’ve had in the past,” he said.

“But we have about the same number of English and Irish media and about 100 Japanese, largely because of Ishikawa.”

The 17-year-old Ishikawa, widely seen as the saviour of the flagging JGTO men’s tour, shot to fame in May 2007 when he became the youngest winner on the Japanese tour at 15 years eight months.

He won his first tournament as a professional in November at the ABC Championship after joining the paid ranks at the start of 2008.

Last year he also became the youngest player to win 100 million yen ($1.11 million) in a single season on the Japanese tour.

Born in Saitama north of Tokyo, Ishikawa has swiftly risen to 64th in the world rankings, making him the second highest Japanese player after Shingo Katayama (39th).

He will become the second youngest player to compete at the U.S. Masters when he makes his major debut on April 9 at Augusta National.


February 12, 2009

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