- Associated Press - Saturday, August 6, 2011

AKRON, OHIO (AP) - Ryo Ishikawa amazed even his peers in a charity-driven sport when he pledged in March to donate his entire earnings on the golf course to the tsunami relief fund in his native Japan.

He could double the donation Sunday in a World Golf Championship that is surprising even him.

Coming off a missed cut in Japan, never better than 20th in stroke play in America, the 19-year-old sensation made six birdies and twice escaped trouble in the trees Saturday for a 6-under 64 that put him in the final group and only one shot behind Adam Scott in the Bridgestone Invitational.

Along with a $1.4 million payoff, Ishikawa could become the youngest winner of a PGA Tour event in 100 years.

“I think it’s a little too early to think about winning this whole thing as of now,” Ishikawa said. “But I do feel that I was able to play at a pretty good level, a pretty high level today. Actually, I’m a little surprised of how I performed out there.”

Scott turned his fortunes around when decided to stick what was working, going to a fade off the tee. He poured in four birdies on the back nine for a 4-under 66, giving the 31-year-old Australian a shot at his first World Golf Championship.

Scott was at 12-under 198, the lowest 54-hole score at Firestone in 10 years. He will play in the last group with Ishikawa. In front of them will be Jason Day, whose 66 put him one shot behind. Day and Scott tied for second in the Masters this year.

About the only thing Tiger Woods can now get out of this week are four rounds and some points to help him qualify for the FedEx Cup playoffs at the end of the month. Woods, a seven-time winner at Firestone who hasn’t played in nearly three months, struggled again with his putting and had a 72. He was 13 shots behind in a tie for 38th in the 76-man field.

“I’ve just got to put together a good round and let it build,” Woods said.

Scott in the lead should be compelling enough, especially with Woods back to golf. It was only two weeks ago when Woods announced he had fired his caddie, Steve Williams, and Scott then hired him on a full-time basis.

But that’s became old news because of one of the youngest players in the field.

Ishikawa might be the only other player in golf to appreciate what it’s like to get attention like Woods. He has been a star in Japan since he won his first tournament as a 15-year-old amateur, and his 10 wins on the Japan Golf Tour include shooting a 58 in the final round to win The Crowns.

He has earned so much respect from his peers that Scott, even though he was leading, was not the least bit bothered to spend most of his interview talking about the kid once known as the “Shy Prince.”

“I first saw him in Japan when he was 15, and he had already won an even over there. I mean, this kid is really amazing,” Scott said. “I think this week is really big for him. It’s great that he’s playing well over here probably for the first time, if I’m not mistaken, first time he’s really challenging at a world event.

“He’s only 19. He’s got everything in front of him.”

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