As of last week, the record single round golf score at a major golf tour event was 59. That mark was shared by Al Geiberger, Chip Beck, and David Duval on the PGA Tour and Annika Sorenstam on the LPGA.
Sunday Ryo Ishikawa shot 58 to win the Japan Tour’s ‘The Crowns’ tournament at the 6,545-yard Nagoya Golf Club. He missed a 15-foot putt on the 18th hole for a 57.
Japan Tour Executive Director Andy Yamanaka noted Ishikawa’s performance was no accident. “That is one of the toughest golf courses in Japan. He went out in 28 (strokes) yesterday. Amazing,” he said.
Ishikawa overcame a six stroke deficit to win the event, passing third-round leader Shigeki Maruyama.
The teenager has already won seven times on the Japan Tour, and as you would expect, has become a huge celebrity in his home country. So huge that Japan Tour Director Yamanaka said Ishikawa has a chance to make more money than any Japanese athlete in history.
“I couldn’t estimate the figures,” said Yamanaka, letting escape a long sigh. Under the current economic circumstances it is very important to have Ryo Ishikawa on the tour.
“Because of his presence there is more income or sponsors and better ticket sales of course.
“But TV ratings for tournaments where he is playing well are above 10 percent — which for golf is unbelievable.”
Ishikawa’s ultra-bright smile and good manners have also helped boost his celebrity, with mothers dragging their children to watch him play.
“You have no idea how many women and kids come to watch,” said Yamanaka. “Not just young ladies but mothers who want their kids to be like Ryo Ishikawa.
“It’s not just his golf game, it’s his charisma and his ability to behave on and off the course. It’s not enough now to be a great athlete. You have to be perfect in every aspect.”
Losing their cash cow to more lucrative overseas tours remains a constant fear for JGTO officials.
“He’s got 19 endorsements and more than 12 or 13 TV commercials,” said Yamanaka. “We worry about the future — him going to the U.S. or Europe and imagine if that happens what would our tour become?”
Asked about Ishikawa’s projected future earnings making him Japan’s first billion dollar athlete, Yamanaka said: “It could even be more than that!”
If Ishikawa continues to perform like he did on Sunday, there’s no doubt we’ll see him dropping in on more PGA Tour events, if not for the prestige alone.
Is Ishikawa the next Tiger Woods? For his sake, I hope not.