Jones and Ishikawa: Mutual Respect

As Australian Brendan Jones and Japan's Ryo Ishikawa walked the 72nd hole in last Sunday's final round of the Japan Golf Tour's Sun Chlorella event in Hokkaido they needed little reminding they were involved in something very special.

In a titanic battle for the title, the 17 year Ishikawa started the last round three ahead of Jones but by the turn the Australian, twice the age of the rising superstar, had drawn within one. The pair traded blows over the next few holes but when Ishikawa bogeyed the 15th they were tied at 16 under. Jones was seven under for the day and Ishikawa four under.

They had drawn well clear of their nearest rivals and in front of a huge and parochial gallery they settled down to battle it out.

"It was one of the biggest galleries I have ever played in front of in Japan," said Jones. "I played what I thought was a fantastic round but every time I made a birdie, Ryo made one on top of me. I missed a good opportunity from 15 or so feet at the 17th to go one ahead but it caught the hole and lipped out so we headed to the last all tied up," said Jones from Canberra this week.

Both players would find the fairway bunker from the tee. Ishikawa was first to play and hit what Jones would describe as one of the greatest shots he has seen.

"I had chills in my spine when the gallery went up after he hit his 4 iron to 8 feet."

Jones was not done for yet however and a six iron of his own from the fairway bunker to twelve feet ensured this battle would go right to the wire.

"I pulled my putt and it was left to him to make his which he did."

Like so many others Jones is amazed by Ishikawa's maturity.

"Ryo is something very special. He now heads our money list up there and he has handled the media focus on him so well since his first win two years ago. Everywhere we go now he is bringing new people to the game."

Jones and Ishikawa chatted with each other regularly throughout the final round.

"On the final hole with such an amazing arena I casually asked him how he was feeling. He replied that he was feeling very nervous and added that he didn't like the feeling." Jones responded, "I had a bit of a laugh to myself and told him he better get used to it mate as you are going to be doing this for a long time to come. He doesn't seem to have the nerves most people have and even though he said he was nervous, you couldn't tell it as he kept doing impressive things on the golf course."

After Ishikawa holed his putt the pair embraced at the end of what had been a titanic and emotional battle, both full of admiration respect for what they had both achieved and experienced over the previous few hours and especially the last ten minutes.

"Ryo was quite emotional after his win and gave me a big hug. It was a great moment and I also got a lot out of the moment. The manner in which he won the tournament in such dramatic fashion will give him a lot of confidence that's for sure."

Another aspect to come out of the day was the number of emails Jones received via his website "": on his arrival back in Canberra from Japanese golf fans, some he knew and others who were strangers.

"I was amazed as to how many people contacted me to firstly acknowledge the level of both of our play but also to not so much apologize but to sympathise with me having to play against an understandably patriotic crowd. I've replied to most of the emails to date assuring them that I was not offended by it and regardless of where it was in the world such local support could be expected but it was heartening to receive that feedback."

Ishikawa and Jones will meet again at the PGA Championship in Minnesota and it is a fair bet that when they do it will be a warm greeting as they both cast their mind back ten days to what for both of them will be one of their most rewarding moments in the game.

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