TIGER keeps cool

TURNBERRY, Scotland - British Open organisers have defended their decision to pair Tiger Woods with Japanese prodigy Ryo Ishikawa for the first two rounds at Turnberry Golf Course despite fears they could be assailed by media cameras.

TURNBERRY, Scotland - British Open organisers have defended their decision to pair Tiger Woods with Japanese prodigy Ryo Ishikawa for the first two rounds at Turnberry Golf Course despite fears they could be assailed by media cameras.

World number one and the best-known sportsman in the world Woods always attracts huge galleries wherever he goes. But the 17-year-old Ishikawa's presence will haul in the army of Japanese reporters and photographers who are following his every move at Turnberry where he is contesting his first Open.

Asked if he had any regrets about sending the two out together, along with top European hope Lee Westwood of England, Royal and Ancient Golf Club chairperson Peter Dawson said no.

"I was obviously cognisant of the amount of media interest there is in that group," he said. "I have since spoken to Tiger and to Lee Westwood. They're entirely happy about the grouping. And we're happy that we have good controls in place on the media following that group. There will be a lot of interest in it, that's for sure."

Ishikawa has become a hugely popular sportsman in Japan since he exploded onto the scene in May 2007 by becoming the youngest ever winner of a Japan Golf Tour event, at 15 years and eight months.

He has been unable to transpose this onto the international stage but his forays on to the US PGA Tour earlier this year, especially at the Masters, engendered huge media coverage in Japan where he already has superstar status.

Reacting to the draw, Ishikawa said: "It's unbelievable that Tiger is talking about me. And it is like a dream come true. Ever since I got in to the British Open it's like a total dream."

Woods said the pairing would be "interesting" and that "there will be a lot of people inside the ropes", referring to the media interest.

The grouping is due to go out at 9.09am today and at 2.20pm tomorrow. - Sapa-AFP

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