Monday, November 29, 1999

McIlroy relishes dream grouping with Watson and Ishikawa

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Rory McIlroy is raring to get started at the U.S. Open on Thursday at Pebble Beach and relishing his grouping with 18-year-old Ryo Ishikawa of Japan and eight-times major winner Tom Watson.McIlroy, 21, and Ishikawa share more than just precocious talent -- the two had memorable breakthroughs the same weekend last month when the Northern Irishman won his first U.S. event at Quail Hollow and Ishikawa broke 60 while winning in Japan."I've played with him quite a lot over the last couple years and I really enjoy his company and he's a great player," McIlroy said about Ryo, a seven-times winner on the Japan Tour."If I was to turn on my TV and watch anyone play I would like to watch Ryo."I think the way he plays and the way he handles himself and carries himself, he's a great role model to a lot of people."When I won at Quail Hollow that week Ryo won the Crowns and shot 58 in the last round, which was incredible."I played that tournament a couple years before that and it's a pretty tricky golf course. So he's really impressive and to achieve what he has already, to play on a Presidents Cup and to win so many times on the Japan Tour is very impressive."McIlroy said he was also excited to make his first competitive tour of Pebble Beach alongside 60-year-old Watson, who won the 1982 Open at the same venue."I played nine holes with Tom at the Masters this year in a practice round and he still hits it as good as anyone," he said."I think it's definitely a good draw for me. It should help me relax a little bit. Especially playing with someone that's around the same age as I am and someone that's not quite the same age," said McIlroy, drawing laughs from reporters."I'm really excited about playing with Tom. He's won around here and I might pick up a few things these first two days that I can bring into the weekend, you never know."(Editing by Ed Osmond; To query or comment on this story email
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