SINGAPORE - Former teenage sensation Ryo Ishikawa will take another shot at becoming the first Japanese golfer to win the SMBC Singapore Open title since Kesahiko Uchida's triumph in 1976.
The 27-year-old, nicknamed "The Bashful Prince" for his brooding good looks, confirmed on Monday (Jan 7) that he will be teeing off at the Jan 17-20 event that will be played on the Serapong Course at Sentosa Golf Club.
The US$1 million (S$1.36 million) event is jointly sanctioned by the Japan Golf Tour Organisation (JGTO) and the Asian Tour.
Ishikawa, who finished joint-16th at last year's SMBC Singapore Open, shot to fame in 2007 when he became the youngest winner on the Japanese circuit by winning the Munsingwear Open KSB Club.
By the end of 2008, he became the youngest player to reach the top 100 of the world rankings, and was also the youngest to crack the top 50 the following year.
A serious back injury in 2016, however, interrupted his career. While he could not add to his 14 JGTO titles last year, he finished second at the Token Homemate Cup and had three other top-10 finishes.
In an earlier interview with The Straits Times, Ishikawa said he aims to win a Major title and also taste success on the US PGA Tour in the next 10 years.
He added: "The key to win is the tee shot. You need to keep it on the fairway, because you can't attack the flag from the rough and bunkers. It's going to be tough because I don't hit very straight."
Other than Ishikawa, the top five players from the JGTO money list will also play at the SMBC Singapore Open. They are Shugo Imahira, Shaun Norris, Yuki Inamori, Kodai Ichihara and Yuta Ikeda.
World No. 26 Sergio Garcia of Spain will be back to defend his title. The 2017 Masters champion will be joined by Ryder Cup-winning teammate and former world No. 3 Paul Casey. Other high-profile players teeing off at Serapong include 54-year-old American great Davis Love III, and 22-year-old Englishman Matthew Fitzpatrick, one of golf's rising stars.
Tickets for the SMBC Singapore Open are on sale via ApacTix. Children below the age of 12 enjoy free entry - a move aimed at encouraging more juniors to go and watch top golfing action.