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Ikeda shaken by TV images before golf tournament

- Associated Press - Friday, March 11, 2011

DORAL, FLA. (AP) - Yuta Ikeda received an e-mail in the middle of the night about a massive earthquake in Japan, followed by a devastating tsunami that slammed the eastern coast near the city where he went to college.

He spent the next several hours watching television and trying to make phone calls to check on his family and friends.

And then it was time to tee off Friday in a World Golf Championship.

"It was very difficult," Ikeda said after his second round at the Cadillac Championship. "The tough part ... the cell phones still are not working in Japan. So I made many calls, but everyone I haven't been able to contact. It doesn't meant they are accounted for. It just means I haven't been able to contact them to make sure they are OK."

The three Japanese players at Doral _ Iketa, Ryo Ishikawa and Hiroyuki Fujita _ were trying to grasp the 8.9 magnitude quake that left hundreds dead or missing as rescuers were still trying to get to areas of Sandei, the coastal city closest to the quake's epicenter.

All three lives at least 250 miles away, although it was no less troubling.

"The magnitude of 5.0 where my family lives is still a very big earthquake," Ishikawa said. "So I just hope that everybody else around will be safe."

Ishikawa checks the news when he wakes up each day, and this was a stunner. He at least was able to get in touch with his family and learn they were all right before he completed his opening round Friday morning, a 7-under 65 that put him one shot behind.

"I received a communication from my father, and the message was, 'Focus on your golf, we are fine, do what you need to do.'"

In the second round that afternoon, however, Ishikawa shot a 76 on the TPC Blue Monster course to fall six shots behind. While he said it was difficult not to think of the earthquake in the morning, he said that wasn't an issue in the second round.

"It was simply that the Blue Monster decided to be what it's known to be," he said.

Fujita once played a tournament each year in Miyagi. He said he has friends near Sendai, though none with whom he keeps in touch. He saw the havoc on TV and couldn't believe it.

"It's not in this world," he said through Japanese reporter Sonoka Funakoshi.

He couldn't reach his family when his tee time neared, so he headed out to the Blue Monster and tried to concentrate on his game. After he finished up the first round, he learned his family was fine.

Ikeda was the most visibly affected, and he initially told an interpreter he didn't want to talk about it before relenting.

"It's tough," he said. "It's my second hometown. I was born and raised in Chiba, but I went to school in Sendai and to see what you had to see on TV was very difficult to take in.

"I'm very, very concerned."

Ishikawa, the 19-year-old sensation who already has nine Japan Golf Tour wins, is the most familiar to players at Doral from playing in majors and the Presidents Cup two years ago.

He said Ernie Els and Vijay Singh were among those who came up to him to check on his family. He played with Rickie Fowler, whose mother's side is of Japanese heritage.

"I made sure his family was OK," Fowler said. "But it's not like we wanted to talk about tsunamis all day."

Ishikawa still doesn't know the extent of the devastation in Japan, where he receives the kind of celebrity treatment that Tiger Woods gets. But he was surrounded by more reporters than usual, which told him everything.

"I realize with the extent of coverage here, it much be a very grave situation in Japan," Ishikawa said. "I tried my best to block everything out, but as you can imagine, it's a tough day."

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