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Shane Bacon

Ryo Ishikawa in hunt at Doral, as tragedy in Japan lingers

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It's never felt like Ryo Ishikawa was a teenager. When he first arrived in the United States, just 17 years old, he carried himself with a bravado that was years north of his digits. He seemed comfortable in the spotlight, familiar with the media attention he was getting, and not intimidated by other players more famous in this area than he.

But early Friday morning was a whole different beast. Ishikawa, now 19, had to head out to complete an already spectacular first round at the WGC-Cadillac Championship with the knowledge that a devastating earthquake and tsunami had torn through his homeland. Ishikawa awoke on Friday much like the rest of this country, struck instantly by the news that hundreds had perished and tens of thousands are missing or without homes after waves struck an area about 250 miles north of Tokyo. Ishikawa went to the Internet to read up on what exactly happened, and said it helped when he got to speak to his parents before he went out to finish his round.

"If you can imagine, it's beyond being a distraction for me. I'm worried for the whole country of Japan. The fact that I was finally able to communicate with my parents did help me feel so much better. I just tried focus, but it is a battle out there for me," Ishikawa said.

Ishikawa's opening 7-under 65 is the lowest round he's ever shot on the PGA Tour, and has him just a shot back of Hunter Mahan as the second round begins. Although he's never been in this type of position on this tour, maintaining his composure and keeping his thoughts on the golf will be especially hard considering what all is happening, and how many new reports are coming out of Japan.

"It is not possible to block something of this magnitude out completely. But I understand that in the position that I am, together with the other star athletes from Japan and other sporting areas, we can provide encouragement and hope for the people of Japan by myself doing the job."

Ishikawa will continue at Doral, with his second round expected to start just before noon on the East Coast. Like Ryo said, if he can continue to play well, it might give some of the people in Japan an open distraction from the devastation they're enduring. If not, everyone will be pretty understanding that sometimes, getting a little white ball in a small hole cut out in the middle of a tightly mowed grassy area just doesn't matter that much.

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