The Rory and the Ryo Show
The careers of Rory McIlroy and Ryo Ishikawa have had an odd habit of running along parallels lines. Matt Cooper explains.
Rory McIlroy and Ryo Ishikawa have been no secret in the world of golf for the last five years, but their spectacular wins at the weekend saw them leap to the top of the sport.
Yet it is not the first time their careers have been compared, contrasted and even had weird parallels.
Matt Cooper looks more closely.
Rory McIlroy was born on 4 May 1989 in Holywood, Northern Ireland. He is 5ft 11 and 11 stone.
Ryo Ishikawa was born on 17 September 1991 in Matsubishi, Saitama. He is 5 ft 8 and 10 stone 10 lbs.
McIlroy is sometimes referred to as “Rors”.
Ishikawa is called “Hanikami Oji” or the “Bashful Prince”.
From a very young age is was apparent that McIlroy was a little bit special. He broke many records in Irish golf for being the youngest winner of events, topped the amateur world rankings, represented GB&I in the 2007 Walker Cup and shot 61 at Royal Portrush in 2005.
Ishikawa’s amateur career was somewhat less celebrated worldwide but in Japan the excitement was huge. So much so that when, as a 15-year-old amateur, he made his debut in a professional event in 2007 there was much anticipation …
2007 – breakthrough
Ishikawa played catch-up with McIlroy in some style – on the 20 May, aged 15 years and 8 months, he won the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup, shooting a final round of 66.
Two months later McIlroy shot an opening round of 68 (three-under-par) to tie the lead in the Open Championship at Carnoustie. He was the only player in the field to post no bogey and went on to win the Silver Medal as low amateur.
Early professional experiences
McIlroy was the first to make the move into the paid ranks and he promptly astonished everyone by finishing third in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship and fourth in the Portuguese Masters to earn his card for 2008 with just four starts.
Ishikawa turned pro in 2008 but found life less easy than on that first start – by the middle of October in 2008 he has added only two more top fives in 23 starts since his win.
McIlroy, too, has struggled in 2008 but he ended in style. Only a late burst of adrenalin prevented him winning the European Masters (he hit his approach through the green) and an inspired shot by Wen-Tang Lin defeated him in the play-off for the Hong Kong Open.
Ishikawa closed his year with a second place in the Japan Open, was runner-up in the Dunlop Phoenix and won the ABC Championship.
2009 – just getting better
McIlroy started his season in stunning form and opened his winners account in style by claiming the Dubai Desert Classic, executing a superb bunker shot on the final hole to confirm the win.
Meanwhile Ishikawa dominated the Japanese Tour winning four times to claim the Order of Merit.
McIlroy had a superb debut year of major golf in 2009 – he finished 20th at Augusta, 10th at the US Open and third in the PGA Championship.
Ishikawa was less impressive but he did play with Tiger Woods in the first round at Turnberry and with huge crowds, a massive media entourage and TV cameras following his every move he shot 68 to better the great man’s score.
McIlroy has twice played in the Seve Trophy (excelling in partnership with Graeme McDowell), made one World Cup appearance and looks guaranteed to make his debut in the 2010 Ryder Cup.
Ishikawa was selected as a captain’s pick by Greg Norman in the 2009 Presidents Cup and justified that faith easily, winning three matches. He has also played for Asia in two Royal Trophies.
After his win last week McIlroy sits ninth in the world.
When he entered the world’s top fifty at the end of 2008 Ishikawa had become the youngest ever player to do so. He is currently rated 38th in the world.
Six shots behind going into the final round, Ishikawa shot a jaw-dropping final round of 58 on a par 70 course to complete a five shot victory.
His round began in stunning fashion with nine birdies in his first eleven holes and ended almost too solidly! He had only three birdies in his final seven holes. He took only 20 putts.
Nine shots behind after two rounds, McIlroy shot 66 on the tough par 72 Quail Hollow course on Saturday to set up his remarkable charge. His final round of 62 blitzed the field, turning a four shot deficit into a four shot win.
Astonishingly he was only one-under par after six holes but from that point he went berserk: he registered a three on 11 of his last 13 holes, missing only two greens in regulation and taking only 26 putts.
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