Ishikawa takes aim at Tokyo 2020

Ryo Ishikawa's improved fitness helped him clinch a Japan Tour-leading three wins last year. However, he will need to continue racking up victories if he is to claim a berth on the Japanese Olympic team.
Ryo Ishikawa's improved fitness helped him clinch a Japan Tour-leading three wins last year. However, he will need to continue racking up victories if he is to claim a berth on the Japanese Olympic team.ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

Ryo Ishikawa, battling a serious back injury in 2016 and a winless streak on the Japan Golf Tour for the following two years, never doubted he would return to the peak of his game.

The 28-year-old, nicknamed the "Bashful Prince" for his brooding good looks, said: "It was tough, and if I was thinking short term and about winning the next tournament, it would have been a struggle. But I'm someone who plans five to 10 years ahead, so that helped me.

"I also had great support from my trainer. I didn't use to do weights before because I didn't want to be stiff but, after some intense weight training for the past seven months, my lower back is stronger."

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 Cup.

By the end of 2008, he was the youngest to crack the top 100 and then the top 50 the following year, before injury threatened to derail his career.

His improved fitness, however, saw him clinching a Japan Tour-leading three victories last year. But he is not done yet. "The three victories last year is just a number. I am concentrating more on my game than the number of wins," he said.

The world No. 83 is also targeting a berth at the Tokyo Olympics but will need more wins to earn enough ranking points to overtake countrymen Hideki Matsuyama (21st) and Shugo Imahira (33rd), to qualify for the quadrennial event in July.

He said: "I hope Hideki and Shugo play well but I also want to be part of the Olympics and I will do my best to get there.

"I hope to get better results in these six months, starting from Singapore. If I can get to the WGC Mexico Championship next month and play well there, I have a chance."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 15, 2020, with the headline 'Ishikawa takes aim at Tokyo 2020'. Print Edition | Subscribe