- Bob Harig, Senior Golf Writer
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DORAL, Fla. -- Ryo Ishikawa awoke to the horrifying news Friday that his homeland was in chaos due to a devastating earthquake and subsequent tsunami.
One of Japan's most famous sportsmen, the 19-year-old Ishikawa is half a world away at the WGC-Cadillac Championship, where he completed the first round of the tournament at Doral on Friday morning one shot behind leader Hunter Mahan. Ishikawa shot 7-under 65 on the TPC-Blue Monster course at Doral.
"It is not possible to block something of this magnitude out completely," Ishikawa said through an interpreter. "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 myself by doing the job."
Ishikawa said he was able via e-mail to contact his parents, who live in the Tokyo area, early Friday. Ishikawa is from the town of Saitama, which is some 250 miles south of the worst part of the destruction, although it still experienced a 5.0-magnitude quake, he said.
It made going out to finish his first round quite difficult. Ishikawa had to resume the weather-delayed round on the 13th hole, but he finished with two birdies to put himself in the best position he's ever been on the PGA Tour.
"If you can imagine, it's beyond being a distraction for me," he said. "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 to focus, but it is a battle out there for me."
Ishikawa couldn't hold it together as well in the afternoon, however. He shot 76 to fall down the leaderboard.
Ishikawa is ranked 42nd in the world and already has 11 career international victories. Last year, he shot a final-round 58 to win The Crowns title, shooting the lowest score ever recorded on any major professional tour. His best finish in a PGA Tour event is a tie for ninth last year at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.
Ishikawa traveled to the United States last month to play in the Northern Trust Open, the WGC-Match Play, this week's event at Doral, next week's Transitions Championship and the Arnold Palmer Invitational. After a week off, he will play in the Masters. It will be his eighth start in a major.
Because of Ishikawa's popularity at home, he is typically followed by more than two dozen Japanese journalists at golf tournaments. There were at least 30 of them at Doral on Friday, trying to do their jobs while also having difficulty reaching family members at home.
"I've been trying since 4 a.m., 50 or 60 calls, and I could not get anybody," said Sonoko Funakoshi, who works for the Jiji Press wire service as well as the Daily Sports Newspapers, based in Tokyo. Funakoshi lives in Los Angeles.
"I haven't talked to anybody, can't reach my editors," she said. "It is ironic that Ryo is doing well here and all of this is happening in Japan. We really don't know what to do."
Bob Harig is the golf writer for ESPN.com.