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Ishikawa shocked by gallery

Posted Wednesday, April 08, 2009

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Ryo Ishikawa is accustomed to being followed by swarms of people in Japan, but Monday's practice round at Augusta National Golf Club was a different story.

Ryo Ishikawa practiced away from the course Tuesday. (Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff)

The large gallery of patrons was almost too much for the 17-year-old to handle.

"I got really nervous, even when I was standing on the green and just practicing for the putt," he said.

Rather than focusing on his game, he noticed, he was gazing at his surroundings. When he did swing, it wasn't pretty.

That alone was reason enough for Ishikawa to stay away from the course Tuesday.

"My swing was just kind of messed up a little bit, so I just wanted to spend some time by myself practicing a swing," he said.

Ishikawa is a first-timer at the Masters Tournament after receiving a special invitation. When he tees off in the first round Thursday, he will be the second-youngest Masters competitor in history.

Ishikawa became the youngest person to win on the Japan Golf Tour in May 2007 with his victory at the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup. He was just 15.

A year later, he turned pro, saying his hope was to become the youngest Masters winner.

On Tuesday, after seven rounds of practice at Augusta National since he arrived last week, Ishikawa talked about his first impressions.

Even after all the preparation -- reviewing hours of film of the course and trying to memorize its intricacies -- Ishikawa said he still had to make adjustments.

"As I saw everything in person, I thought everything was so small and narrow," he said. "The one thing that would really surprise me was the proximity between the putting practice (green) and the first hole."

He shot 1-under on his first day -- his best score on the course to date. It was his latter rounds that made him realize how difficult the course was.

On Thursday, he will tee off last with Danny Lee, 18, and Anthony Kim, 23 -- just 11 minutes after his childhood idol, Tiger Woods.

"When I grew up, of course, I saw Tiger Woods and wanted to be like him. Now I know I can't be him," Ishikawa said. "Now I'm a professional, and I know that I'm not going to be him. But I want to be myself, and then I want to go for the No. 1 in the world."

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