Teenage golfer Ishikawa not fazed by struggles

Ryo Ishikawa has displayed a level of maturity beyond his years

in handling success. Now the 19-year-old Japanese golfer is showing

he can take the disappointments with the same cool composure.

Ishikawa won three times on the Japan Tour last season and has

nine wins overall at home but has struggled this season with no

wins. He failed to make the cut in his last two tournaments,

including the Japan Golf Tour Championship where he carded the

worst score of his professional career – a 12-over 83 in the first

round.

When asked of his recent struggles, Ishikawa had a quick

response.

”I knew that question was coming,” Ishikawa said on Tuesday at

the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan. ”It would be strange if

it wasn’t asked.”

Ishikawa has an exemption for the U.S. Open, which starts on

June 16 in Washington, and hopes to get his game straightened out

by then.

”Most of the problems stem from my putting and short game,”

Ishikawa said. ”There is no tournament this week so I’ll have some

good practice and hopefully I can put these past two tournaments

behind me.”

Ishikawa also missed the cut at the Transitions Championship and

Arnold Palmer Invitational but his problems seem minor compared to

those of his idol Tiger Woods. Woods withdrew after only nine holes

last month at The Players Championship and fell out of the top 10

rankings for the first time in 14 years.

Ishikawa said it was difficult to watch Woods struggle with his

game.

”I’ve always looked at him from the perspective of a fan,”

Ishikawa said. ”It’s difficult for me to take this news as another

player. I sure hope he recovers. I’ve always been awed by his

ability and skill.”

Known earlier in his career as ”Bashful Prince,” Ishikawa has

become the face of golf in Japan. He played 34 times last year,

including one span of 20 tournaments in 22 weeks, because the tour

and sponsors lean so heavily on him.

He won his first Japan Tour event as a 15-year-old amateur, won

the money title at 17, and last year became the first player to

shoot 58 on a major tour.

He announced in March that he will be donating all of his 2011

tour earnings, plus an additional $1,200 for every birdie he makes

during the year, to the Japan earthquake relief efforts.

Ishikawa was playing in the Cadillac Championship at Doral on

March 11 when he awoke to news of the earthquake and tsunami.

”I want to do anything I can to help,” Ishikawa said. ”I

visited an evacuee center and will make another trip up to the

region in July.”

No Japanese golfer has ever won a major. Ishikawa has said his

dream is to win The Masters, and some in Japan feel he should play

more on the U.S. PGA Tour to improve his game.

”At the moment, I don’t feel a great urgency to go the U.S.

permanently,” Ishikawa said. ”Just because a player stays in

Japan doesn’t mean he can’t win a major.”