Fit-again Ishikawa looks to hit top form

The phenomenally popular Ryo Ishikawa, hailed as the saviour of Japanese golf when just a teenager, hopes that his knowledge of the tricky greens at Sentosa Golf Club will help him contend at this week’s US1 million SMBC Singapore Open.

Ishikawa, dubbed the “Bashful Prince” for his self-deprecating manner and royal talent, finished joint 16th in his debut last year when he was still figuring out the greens.

“This is the second time I have played in this tournament,” said Ishikawa, now 27 years old. “The greens are superb, these are probably some of the best greens we play all year. I played well last year, and learned a lot of lessons on the putting surface. So I’m looking forward to playing well again this week.”

A sensation in his teens, Ishikawa’s career on the PGA Tour stalled in 2016 after a serious back injury.

He is back playing the Japan Tour, where he made his name, and said that his injury woes were behind him.

“Well, I’m now 100 per cent recovered. Last year at around spring time is when I started running (freely), which is very important for golf, and I’m very fortunate to have recovered at this point,” he said.

Ishikawa, whose every word at Wednesday’s press conference was eagerly awaited by a posse of Japanese media, said he hoped to add to his 14 Japan Tour titles this season, hopefully this week at the SMBC Singapore Open.

“M goal is to play good golf in 2019. Hopefully I can win some tournaments in Japan and maybe two or three more events. There’s also the Olympics in Japan next year, so I’d very much like to be there,” said Ishikawa, who became the youngest winner on the Japanese circuit at 15 years and eight months with victory at the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup. The event was his first on the Japan Tour.

“If I can get back to my best form this week, it’ll be fantastic. I’m getting better and better. I only peaked in the last month of last season – it was a tough season for me. I couldn’t win but I felt something that I had lost for a couple of years (came back), so I hope to get into that condition this week with the best players here – (the likes of) Sergio Garcia, Paul Casey and Matthew Fitzpatrick.”

Ishikawa will play in one of the featured groups alongside defending champion Garcia and Thailand’s Jazz Janewattananond, who tied fourth last year and gained a spot in The Open.

“I love coming back to Singapore. I played really well at the Sentosa Golf Club the last two years. The course is in great shape and my game is quite good. I had two weeks off before playing last week. It’s a good feeling to have at the start of the year,” said Jazz.

“I played well last year to earn my Major debut. I would love to do it again. I really enjoyed myself at The Open last year and it’s definitely my aim to go to Royal Portrush this July. It was an eye-opener for me at The Open and it’s one of the best experiences which I have ever had.”

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