Ishikawa tops JGTO order of merit and stays loyal to Japan
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|Subject: Ishikawa tops JGTO order of merit and stays loyal to Japan Mon Dec 14, 2009 5:24 pm|| |
Record-breaking Japanese teenager Ryo Ishikawa has no plans to ditch his country's golf tour after becoming its youngest order of merit winner.
The 18-year-old Ishikawa, who won four titles on Japan's JGTO Tour in 2009, has already turned his attention to the US Masters in April but insisted moving overseas was not yet in his thoughts.
"Topping the order of merit was a dream I couldn't dare imagine before the season started," Ishikawa told Reuters. "It's an honour to be ranked alongside some of the game's greats."
"My goal now is to make the cut at the Masters," added Ishikawa, already one of Japan's biggest sporting celebrities.
"It's a lifelong dream of mine to actually win the Masters but I honestly do not know if I can commit to playing full-time overseas."
Ishikawa, widely regarded as the saviour of the flagging Japanese tour, shattered Jumbo Ozaki's previous order of merit record by eight years.
The achievement also came three years sooner than similar honours for world number one Tiger Woods, who first dominated the US Tour's money list as a 21-year-old, and Seve Ballesteros, who was 19 when he topped the European Tour's order of merit.
"I don't think about my age when I'm playing golf at all," said Ishikawa. "I don't feel it's a factor. I'm not competing against my age."
Still a schoolboy, the teenager is set up for life as the endorsements keep flooding in but he has promised he will get better after making his major tournament debut in 2009.
"I played in some very tough settings," said Ishikawa, who missed the cut at Augusta in April in his first major appearance. "The British Open and PGA Championship in particular.
"I played in some difficult conditions and learned some painful lessons about how golf doesn't always go the way you plan."
Ishikawa also failed to make the cut at the British Open but qualified for the weekend at a major tournament at the third time of asking at the U.S. PGA Championship.
"That experience helped," he said. "On the Japan tour when things weren't going well I was better equipped to deal with it and was able to turn things around."
Ishikawa had a driver designed for him which cost Japanese sports maker Yonex over a million dollars to develop, but he still sees distance off the tee as a slight weakness to his game.
"Not just next year but my long-term goal is to be longer off the tee," said Ishikawa, who averaged just over 290 yards in 2009 -- ninth on the JGTO Tour.
"I need to study my weight distribution closely and my body control. I think I can hit longer."
World number one Woods, who has announced he will take an indefinite break from golf in the wake of an embarrassing sex-scandal, remains the benchmark for Ishikawa.
"It was great to play with him (at the British Open) and see the way he tees his ball up and hits shots," said Ishikawa. "It's had a big impact on my game for sure."
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