Golf - Ishikawa eyes US breakthrough

Japanese sensation Ryo Ishikawa, having already piled up multiple records on his home circuit, has set his sights on completing a breakthrough victory on the US PGA Tour this season.

Reuters
The Masters - Ishikawa and Wiratchant get Masters invitations
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Ryo Ishikawa of Japan tees off

Long hailed as one of the most exciting young talents in the game, the 21-year-old has so far under-achieved in the United States but says he feels no added pressure as he strives to end his title drought on American soil.

Ishikawa has become a full member of the PGA Tour for 2013 and believes he can break into the winner's circle if he can improve his putting and add a bit of length to his drives.

"I want to hit my driver maybe five or 10 yards further than right now," Ishikawa told Reuters after shooting a level-par 72 in the second round of the PGA Tour's Humana Challenge on Friday.

"And my short game is no good right now either," he added with a broad grin. "I need more hard practice. These two things are no good but my iron play right now is mostly good, I think.

"So I need more practice on my short game, and more length with my driving."

Asked what specific targets he had established for his 2013 campaign, Ishikawa replied with barely any hesitation: "I would like to win on the PGA Tour for the first time and I would like to keep my (U.S.) tour card for next year."

Affectionately known as the "bashful prince" because of his unassuming demeanour, Ishikawa plans to split his time between his home tour and the U.S. circuit this year.

"I will play more events in the U.S. than before," he said after mixing two birdies with two bogeys to post a two-under total of 142 in his first tournament of 2013.

"I want to play on the Japanese Tour as well but the main tour world in this here so I think I will play more events than last year, probably 20-25 events on the PGA Tour."

The fashion-conscious Ishikawa has already established himself as one of his country's biggest sporting celebrities while amassing numerous records in his burgeoning career.

He was the Japanese Tour's youngest order of merit winner in 2009 and in November he became the youngest golfer to win 10 times on the circuit when he ended a two-year title drought with victory at the Taiheiyo Masters.

His every move, on and off the golf course, is monitored closely by the huge numbers of Japanese media but he does not feel any heightened sense of expectation about what he might achieve in the United States.

"There is no pressure for me," smiled Ishikawa, whose spoken English has improved markedly since he first competed on the PGA Tour as a teenager in 2009. "I am relaxing right now and staying focused on my game.

"It's good news for me and for Japanese golf that they have invited me to the Masters so I am still working hard and practising hard.

"Hopefully my play over the next three months on the PGA Tour will be better and then I will go back to Japan to play several events there before coming back here."

Ishikawa, who was given a Masters invitation last week, will make his fifth consecutive start at Augusta National where he has missed the cut on three occasions and tied for 20th in 2011.

The 2013 Masters, the opening major of the season, will take place from Apr. 11-14.

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