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Page last updated at 14:22 GMT, Friday, 9 July 2010 15:22 UK

Ishikawa mania comes to Scotland

Barclays Scottish Open, Loch Lomond, 8-11 July
Coverage: Live on BBC TV, Red Button, BBC Sport website and BBC Radio Scotland, with updates on BBC Radio 5 live Full coverage details

Ryo Ishikawa with some fans

By Clive Lindsay
BBC Scotland at Loch Lomond

The Shunsuke Nakamura of golf, the Tiger Woods of Japan, Ryo Ishikawa is the new phenomenon in Far East sport.

He first sprung to prominence in 2007, winning a senior event on the Japanese golf tour at the age of just 15.

And the world again took notice this year after he shot a 12-under-par 58 - the tour's lowest-ever score - to win the Crowns tournament in Nagoya.

But, back home in Japan, despite his nickname being Hanikami Oji - the Bashful Prince, he makes the headlines day after day.

Every swing on the golf course, almost every moment off it, is followed intensely by a travelling media entourage from his homeland.

It is something that the sporting public in Scotland - who have two chances this month to watch Ishikawa at close hand - have become used to in recent years.

From the day Nakamaru signed for Celtic from Reggina in 2005 until his departure for Espanyol four years later, the Japan international footballer's life and times in Glasgow were recorded in print or camera by at least five journalists from his homeland.

The Ishikawa cortege at this week's Scottish Open is even larger - 10 written journalists, eight photographers and eight more making sure his thoughts and shots are seen on television back home.

To put that into perspective, it means that about 10% of the journalists at Loch Lomond are here to cover Ishikawa's progress alone, despite his late decision to compete in Scotland instead of an important tournament on his own tour catching many in the Japanese media on the hop.

So those numbers will be more than doubled for next week's 150th Open Championship at St Andrews.

However, he is not daunted by the publicity that sees him lauded alongside baseball players as one of the country's top sporting stars and which has revived interest in men's golf there in the process.

"It is appreciated and very important to me," Ishikawa said of the media following him on his arrival at Loch Lomond.

If the Japanese media are not here, people don't know that I've been playing in Scotland.

Japanese golfer Ryo Ishikawa

"In Japan, if the Japanese media are not here, people don't know that I've been playing in Scotland."

Ishikawa has a reputation for being polite and courteous and admits that, on his first Open appearance last year, he felt so much respect for playing partners Lee Westwood and world number one Woods - as well as the Turnberry course - that it hindered his own performance.

Now the teenager regarded, along with Northern Ireland 21-year-old Rory McIlroy, as one of the brightest young prospects in the game, is here to challenge for titles.

Sporting bright red tartan trews on day one - he has promised another pair for St Andrews - and dressed all in white despite Friday morning's downpour, Ishikawa is determined to stand out from the pack and endear himself to the swelling crowds one way or another.

He outshone playing partner Phil Mickelson, a five-over-par finish somewhat dampened the American's hopes of leapfrogging Woods into top spot in the world rankings, by a stroke as he battled to beat the halfway cut.

Ishikawa admits he finds it difficult to play in British weather - "One moment you can be playing in shirt sleeves and be too hot - the next minute you have long sleeves and it is very cold."

However, he coped with rain-lashed Loch Lomond admirably enough to suggest that his day will surely come in the European sun.

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see also
Gallacher in rude health
08 Jul 10 |  Golf

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