The Associated Press . Ryo Ishikawa hits off the 12th fairway during the first round of the Masters Thursday in Augusta.
AUGUSTA -- Ryo Ishikawa's mind was already on his homeland of Japan in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami that hit about a month ago before he even teed off at the Masters.
His concern only grew when informed by reporters of the latest 7.1-magnitude aftershock that occurred Thursday in approximately the same area rocked by the 8.9-magnitude quake March 11.
"I'm worried," said Ishikawa through an interpreter shortly after he walked off Augusta National's 18th green following his first round. "I feel we can't really relax. ... I think it is very serious."
One of four Japanese players in the field, Ishikawa carded a 1-under par 71, leaving him six shots behind leader Rory McIlroy.
The 19-year-old native of Matsubushi, Japan, has already pledged to donate his entire 2011 earnings on the golf course to earthquake relief efforts in his home country.
But he knows that a good showing this weekend at The Masters could also be a much-needed emotional boost to golf fans and others back home.
"I understand people, especially in Sendai, they are living in hell," Ishikawa said. "And I would love to show the energy and power of what golf can bring to those people."
Those sentiments were echoed by countryman Hiroyuki Fujita after he shot a 2-under 70 in Thursday's opening round.
"I think I'm just happy that whatever I do and how I play will encourage people in Japan," Fujita said.
Amateur Hideki Matsuyama fired an even-par 72, while Yuta Ikeda finished at 2-over 74.
Rule book revision
Officials from the United States Golf Association and Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews haven't exactly rewritten the rules of golf.
However, they did announce a new interpretation of a little-used rule involving disqualification due to scorecard error during Thursday's first round.
The revision to Decision 33-7/4.5 "addresses the situation where a player is not aware he has breached a Rule because of facts that he did not know and could not reasonably have discovered prior to returning his score card," according to a joint statement released by both organizations Thursday.
Among other things, the revision helps the rules of golf keep up with new technology in tournaments that are televised, such as when television replays or high-definition television catches a rules violation that the players and officials may not be aware of with the naked eye, and is not discovered until after the offending player signs and turns in his scorecard.
The revision would allow a player in such a situation to continue to compete after taking the appropriate stroke penalty instead of being disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard.
"Essentially what this does, in layman's terms, or in simple terms, this gives the committee under certain circumstances the ability to waive a disqualification penalty that was imposed on a player who returned a scorecard that did not include a penalty for a breach that incurred during that stipulated round," said Mike Davis, executive director of the USGA. "I will tell you, there's been some things that have happened over the last few years with respect to disqualification penalties that had been very troubling to the R&A and to the USGA, and they had been talked about at length between -- with our respective Rules of Golf committees, and we are absolutely delighted that we finally worked through the issues."
Indeed, three-time major champion Padraig Harrington was disqualified from the Abu Dhabi Championship in January for an inadvertent minor rules violation that was caught by a television viewer on a high-definition, slow motion replay.
And there have been other similar incidents in recent years.
Mize makes good
After making the cut just twice since 2000, 1987 Masters champion Larry Mize may be in position to hang around for the two weekend rounds this year after shooting 1-over 73 Thursday.
The 52-year-old Augusta native and former Georgia Tech golfer recovered after falling to 4-over after seven holes and birdied the four straight holes at one point on the back-nine to get to 1-under before bogeys on holes 17 and 18 left him at 1-over.
"They bogeys the last (two) holes leaves a bad taste in your mouth," said Mize, currently 24th on the Champions Tour money list. "I'm pleased I brought it back (from 4-over), but disappointed I let it slip on the last two.
"I feel really good (about the back-nine run). I wasn't even sure how many (birdies) I'd made in a row because you want to stay in the present tense. But that gets you energized. ... It's what you're supposed to be doing, which is good."