Ryo Ishikawa: a ‘prince’ who wants to rule golf

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The other advice pertains to his future.

Ishikawa has asked Ozaki about his reputation for never winning on the biggest stage.

“He said, ‘I couldn’t play well in international tournaments,’ but he expects me to show a good performance outside Japan,” Ishikawa said through his agent, Jumpei Kaneko. “He told me he wanted me to show a good performance in the United States.”

Progress has been slow.

In his first year playing in America, Ishikawa made only two cuts in five starts, and his best was a tie for 56th in the PGA Championship. This year, he advanced to the third round of the Match Play Championship, winning his opening match with a shot that shows why this kid is worth watching. He birdied his last three holes to beat Michael Sim of Australia, including a fairway bunker shot to 2 feet on the 17th.

He was tied for second after the second round of the U.S. Open until he stumbled to a 75 to fall out of contention. He had his best finish in a major last month at St. Andrews when he tied for 27th in the British Open.

His next opportunity starts Thursday at Whistling Straits for the PGA Championship.

Pressure?

Ishikawa has been dealing with larger-than-life expectations since he was 15. He speaks after each round, and knows most in the media by name. After opening with a 71 at Firestone, he pulled up a white chair and sat in the middle of 15 reporters, patiently taking all their questions until there was nothing left to ask. He does this after every round.

For someone with so much star power _ in a newspaper poll in January he was voted Japan’s second-most popular athlete behind Ichiro Suzuki _ Ishikawa has an amazing sense of responsibility.

“Great player, great kid, great future,” said Camilo Villegas, who played with Ishikawa three years ago in Japan.

Ishikawa is trying to speak English, believing it will make him feel more comfortable around the world, and feeling more comfortable can only translate to better golf. That’s what helped make Se Ri Pak such a star on the LPGA Tour. Perhaps that’s what held back Ozaki.

He no longer goes by “Bashful Prince,” for there is nothing bashful about a kid who has a cartoon image of his face stamped on his golf balls, who is not afraid to dress in the brightest shades of red, orange, green or his Smurf-blue outfit at Pebble Beach.

Ishikawa gave up on trying to get Americans to properly pronounce his first name. It’s a bit of a linguistic twister on this side of the Pacific: “Yo,” but said at blurring speed. Instead, he goes by “Rio” in the States. More important is that Americans remember his golf.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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