One by one, his golfing dreams have so far turned into glorious reality. And although his next target – capturing the US Masters before he’s 21 – might seem of Mount Fuji-esque proportions, Ryo Ishikawa is undeterred.
Ishikawa will be 17 years, 6 months and 23 days when he drives down Magnolia Lane for the first time – only amateur Tommy Jacobs was younger (by just over three months) when he featured in the 1952 Masters.
He was nine when he first watched the tournament on TV at his home in Tokyo.
“I remember it well,” he recalls. “I watched Toshi Izawa play in the 2001 Masters. He shot 67 on Sunday and tied fourth, which was the best-ever finish by a Japanese player in the Masters. That was exciting for golf in Japan.”
As the youngest player to make the world’s top 100 rankings, many will be expecting Ishikawa to better Izawa’s performance, and there is little doubt he has the game, confidence and class to impress at Augusta.
He was the youngest winner on the Japanese Tour in 2007, aged just 15, and he became the youngest earner of $1million on his home tour last year.
And the boy from the Land of the Rising Sun isn’t going to Georgia just to make up the numbers. When he turned pro just after his 16th birthday, Ishikawa announced his intention to become the youngest Masters champion ever. His invite this year means he’ll potentially have four attempts to beat Tiger’s record of 21, set in 1997.
He’s so desperate for success at the Masters that he’s even had a practice facility built near his Tokyo home with Augusta-style bentgrass on the greens and the same type of crystal-white sand in the bunkers.
Ishikawa’s other golfing hero is Ian Poulter, whom he played alongside during the 2007 Dunlop Phoenix. He loves the Brit’s on-course style and is trying to take a leaf out of Poulter’s fashion book, insisting that his attire is nearly as important as his clubs!
He’s a phenomenon in Japan, making news on the front as well as the back pages, and is adored by the media and fans alike. With such talent and attention comes expectation.
Ishikawa failed to make the cut on his PGA Tour debut in February and it remains to be seen whether he can live up to all the hype. The sponsors certainly have faith in him. He may still be in high school, where he’s studying art, but he’s already reportedly pocketed over $10million in endorsements alone. A staggering amount for a teenager.
With his financial future secure, Ishikawa can concentrate on glory... starting with a first tilt at Tiger’s Augusta record.