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Steady Ishikawa stays in contention

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    Ryo Ishikawa, who was tied for second place, played the first two rounds of the U.S. Open with Tom Watson.

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. » Japan’s Ryo Ishikawa was a startling contrast in nearly every way yesterday with playing partner Tom Watson. The one thing they shared? Both shot an even-par 71 in yesterday’s second round of the U.S. Open.

After they signed their scorecards, Watson reached out and shook the hand of the 18-year-old sensation, who enters today’s second round tied for second at 1-under 141 for the tournament, just two shots off the pace of Graeme McDowell.

For the second straight day, Ishikawa was decked out in stylish attire, bright-colored as a peacock, strutting along much to the delight of the Japanese photographers, who shot every move he made as he edged into contention for this year’s second major.

"Tom said to me that I will have a good future," Ishikawa said of his 60-year-old playing partner who has won eight major championships, including the 1982 U.S. Open right here at Pebble Beach. "Yesterday Tom and I talked about golf courses in Japan designed by him."

Ishikawa recently shot a 58 on a course in Japan, giving you an idea what kind of talent this young man has at such an early age. Yesterday, he birdied the 17th, the same hole Watson chipped in for birdie 28 years ago to beat Jack Nicklaus and win his only U.S. Open title.

"I like it, I like 17," Ishikawa said. "I hit a 4-iron today, and I couldn’t see where the ball landed after the first bounce. It was a lucky bounce. The putting was very straight. Straight, right in, so yesterday and today I was very lucky."

Ishikawa is just one of many young guns making their mark on the game. If the pressure is bothering him, Ishikawa isn’t showing it. He believes the key for him is playing the same way on the weekend that he did in the opening two rounds.

"I hope I can play more aggressive the next two days," Ishikawa said. "I hope I can focus on my golf, just my golf. My feeling is just go for it."

Woods in contention

Tiger Woods isn’t on the first page of the leaderboard, but the world’s No. 1 golfer will be around for the weekend after firing a 1-over 72 yesterday to settle at 4-over 146 for the tournament. He’s seven shots off the pace.

"I feel good," Woods said. "I’m right there. As we know, the U.S. Open is only going to get tougher as the weekend goes. The golf course will dry out. I know they put some water on it last night, and that’s probably the last drink they will get. So, it will firm up."

Woods carded three birdies and four bogeys to stay close to the leaders. He will need a couple of rounds in the 60s over the weekend to threaten the leaders, but he’s certainly capable of doing just that.

"I’m right there in the championship," Woods said. "I just need to make a few more birdies, a few more putts on the weekend and I’ll be right there."

Inside the numbers

There were some surprising scores yesterday, including a dozen snowmen (an 8 on the scorecard) out of 156 golfers trying to tame the famed Pebble Beach course. But those weren’t the worst; just ask Stephen Ames and past Sony Open in Hawaii winner Zach Johnson.

They carded a pair of 9s on two par 5s that kept Ames from being around for the weekend. Ames had his on the par-5 18th en route to an 84. Johnson carded his 9 on the dreaded par-5 14th to shoot a 77 and land on the cutline at 7-over 149.

The hardest hole was the par-4 second with a scoring average of 4.46. There were nine birdies, 79 pars, 56 bogeys, 11 double bogeys and a triple by England’s Matthew Richardson. The easiest hole was the par-5 sixth with two eagles, 63 birdies, 69 pars, 19 bogeys, two double bogeys and one triple by America’s Jerry Smith.

Y.E. Yang had the worst nine holes, shooting a 49 on the back. He had to par the last hole to avoid the dreaded 50.


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