An official with the Japan Golf Tour speculates that the PGA Tour will turn to Japan to help ease financial uncertainties in the wake of Tiger Woods' problems and that teen sensation Ryo Ishikawa is the key.
"Asia is where money moves and gathers," Japan Golf Tour senior director Hiroshi Yamanaka told AFP. "Tiger's absence greatly affects spectator turnouts and TV ratings. It makes it still tougher for the U.S. tour to survive on its own amid difficulties such as the pullout of various sponsors due to the subprime loan crisis.
"I expect the PGA (Tour) to step up its approach to Japan in order to pump up its tournaments. For example, if Ishikawa plays on the U.S. tour, it will draw Japanese media and his sponsors may follow him there."
Expectations are being heaped on Ishikawa, who is only 18 and an unknown quantity with regards to the bigger stage of the PGA Tour.
"Ishikawa is still a raw stone and the U.S. side may approach him in a bigger way in Tiger's absence," Munehiko Harada, a professor of sports marketing at Tokyo's Waseda University, told AFP. "We will see how much Ishikawa will rise to superstar status."
He's already paid as though he's achieved that status. AFP reports that he has 20 endorsement contracts worth $33 million.
-- John Strege