Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Augusta Gets Some Teen Spirit; Ishikawa, Lee and McIlroy Are Eager to Make Masters Debuts

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Augusta Gets Some Teen Spirit; Ishikawa, Lee and McIlroy Are Eager to Make Masters Debuts

Article excerpt

Byline: GARRY SMITS

AUGUSTA, Ga. - Casual golf fans might look at the some of the fresh, peach-fuzzed faces at the Augusta National Golf Club this week and wonder if they accidentally stumbled upon an American Junior Golf Association event.

They didn't. This is the Masters Tournament, and the kids inside the ropes who look like they should be updating their Facebook profiles earned their way to Augusta.

There's 17-year-old Ryo Ishikawa of Japan, who already has won twice on the Japanese PGA Tour, the first time in May of 2007, when he was 15.

Ten months older, at 18, is Danny Lee, a native of South Korea, a resident of New Zealand and the youngest U.S. Amateur winner in history, last year at Pinehurst. He has since won on the European PGA Tour and will turn professional after this week.

And at 19 is Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, who made his splash with an opening-round 68 in the 2008 British Open and earlier this year became the sixth-youngest player to win on the European PGA Tour.

They're the three best players in a collective infusion of new blood in the Masters that also includes one other player who has yet to reach the legal drinking age (Drew Kittleson, 20, a Florida State player and a U.S. Amateur finalist) and two 21-year-olds (British Amateur champion Reinier Saxon and U.S. Public Links champion Jack Newman).

And the teenagers in the bunch don't appear to be intimidated by their surroundings - yet.

Take McIlroy for example, who was asked if he felt any sense of awe over setting foot on the grounds of Augusta National for the first time.

"I didn't ... I really didn't," he said. "I thought I would be. I'm not really one to get overwhelmed by much. I'm really excited to be here, don't get me wrong. But I want to try and get the most out of this week as possible, so you can't really be in awe of anything."

Lee said he feels more nervous about the prospect of playing in front of huge galleries and dealing with the media than the actual task of playing Augusta National.

"The first time playing here, it wasn't that hard," Lee said. "It was hard to understand why the players struggled over here. …

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