x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Luck of draw smiles on Ishikawa

The Japanese golf sensation will have two rounds with Tiger Woods, the world No 1 who he is being compared to.

The 17-year-old Ryo Ishikawa became the youngest winner of a sanctioned Tour event two years ago.
The 17-year-old Ryo Ishikawa became the youngest winner of a sanctioned Tour event two years ago.

TURNBERRY // Ryo Ishikawa, the emerging golfing sensation from Japan whom many experts are comparing to Tiger Woods in his teenage days, has been drawn against the great man for the first two rounds of the 138th Open Championship which begins at Turnberry on Thursday. Lee Westwood, one of England's finest, will join one of the most attractive of the 52 threesome groups who will tackle what is expected to be a tough Ayrshire course.

Ishikawa, 17, who made history when he became the youngest ever winner of a sanctioned tour event at 15, has never been in Tiger's company before, although they met briefly at the Accenture World Matchplay tournament in the spring. Woods has never played a competitive round at the course which is being used for only the fourth time as an Open venue. The world No 1, back to something like his best again after a lengthy absence to undergo knee surgery, arrived on Sunday for an intensive practice round and indicated yesterday after teeing off in a light southerly breeze that he expects to find the conditions as testing as anywhere.

Yesterday's draw was also kind to another outstanding youngster Matteo Manassero, the 16-year-old Italian prodigy who won the recent Amateur Championship. He will go out alongside Turnberry's most famous champion Tom Watson, who won the legendary Duel in the Sun with Jack Nicklaus in 1977, and Sergio Garcia, the top Spaniard who has endured several Open near-misses. Garcia went particularly close at Carnoustie two years ago when he had a 10-footer at the last to deny Padraig Harrington the first of two successive holds of the coveted Claret Jug.

It will be a considerable upset to the form book if the genial Irishman makes it a hat-trick this year. His form and confidence have slumped in recent months but, a renowned big day performer, he will be hoping his game for the big stage returns when he goes out in a marquee group with Australia's Geoff Ogilvy, a former US Open champion, and the dangerous American veteran Jim Furyk. The honour of hitting the first Open tee shot at Turnberry since Nick Price walked triumphantly down the 18th in 1994 goes to England's Paul Broadhurst 21 years after he claimed the Silver Medal for leading amateur at Royal Lytham.

Broadhurst will be joined for the 6.30am start by former major winners Michael Campbell and Mark Calcavechia. There will be considerable local interest in the fortunes of a strong Scottish family of Salmans. Two of the three brothers, Lloyd and Elliot, are playing, having made it through final qualifying. A third, Zack, just failed to make the qualifying mark but will be carrying Elliot's bag. Lloyd is hoping to emulate his other Open appearance in 2005 when, as an amateur, he tied for 15th place.

"It's been a long wait trying hard to get back into the Championship as a professional, but it's a great feeling," he said. Elliot will not only be making his Open debut but it will be his first tournament of any importance. "To be here with both of my brothers is fantastic," he said. "I can't wait for Thursday to come." The withdrawal of another American Brett Quigley proved fortuitous for Frenchman Thomas Levet who comes in as first reserve.

wjohnson@thenational.ae