STRAIGHT TALK WITH RYO: PGA Tour swing brings newfound confidence

July 05, 2012

By RYO ISHIKAWA/ Special to The Asahi Shimbun

This is the ninth installment of professional golfer Ryo Ishikawa's column for The Asahi Shimbun, which appears every other Thursday.

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Playing in the United States for five consecutive weeks until late June was a good experience for me. In those five weeks, I really learned what I needed and lacked to become a golfer who can win these tournaments in the future.

The Memorial Tournament, where I placed ninth during the second week of my U.S. tour, was especially memorable. But every course was interesting. It was like solving a mystery every time on how to conquer the course and look for winning opportunities. Every time I played, I realized what skills I needed to polish.

I feel like my shot-making is improving. It’s the first time that I haven’t changed the way I approach my shot-making for this long a time. I’ve been able to show the results of my yearlong intense training in hitting the driver. I’ve also changed my mind-set and am no longer just seeking extra distance.

I wish I could hit 20 or 30 yards farther like the big hitters on the PGA Tour. But I think that’s just a dream. Realistically, even if one hits his approach shot from 20 to 30 yards behind another player, whoever lands the ball the closest to the pin on the green will win. I am able to think that way now.

I had long been wanting to drive the ball as far as possible and use the shortest club possible for my second shot because I lacked confidence in my long irons and mid-irons. In a way, I had been running away from my real problem.

Even if I spent a lifetime practicing, my tee shot would only fly 10 yards or so farther. Of course, I will continue to try to gain more distance. If I boost my smash factor and build a more efficient swing, I can gain that extra 10 yards with the same clubhead speed as now.

I have to compete on the global stage in the future giving up 10 yards or more to longer hitters. That means I will be playing a different kind of golf compared with American golfers such as Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson. This year, I was finally able to realize that.

I also felt a difference in the training environment. I was grateful that the practice grounds took the approach of simulating an actual course. I was also surprised that there were courses with such excellent facilities. Every week, I asked a local person familiar with the course to caddy for me. This reminded me of the importance of communicating and constantly checking with people.

Now that I can look back on these five weeks objectively, I think I gained a lot. I don’t think I’m in a place where I have no chance of winning. I can finally see concrete issues I need to work on, and I look forward to the next tournament.

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Ryo Ishikawa is a professional golfer born in Saitama Prefecture in September 1991. He began playing golf in the first grade. He enrolled in Suginami Gakuin High School in Tokyo, and became the youngest winner on the Japan Golf Tour at the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup in May 2007 at the age of 15 years, 8 months. Ishikawa turned pro in 2008, and won a tournament that year. He earned more than 100 million yen ($1.2 million) in prize money in his first year as a professional. In 2009, his second year as a pro, he won four tournaments, and became the youngest money leader on the Japan Golf Tour at the age of 18. On the last day of the Crowns in 2010, he shot a 58--the lowest score in a major tour event--and came from six strokes back to win by five shots. Ishikawa has won nine times on the Japan Golf Tour, despite his slight build of 174 centimeters and 68 kilograms.

By RYO ISHIKAWA/ Special to The Asahi Shimbun
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Ryo Ishikawa (Photo by Masaaki Horii)

Ryo Ishikawa (Photo by Masaaki Horii)

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  • Ryo Ishikawa (Photo by Masaaki Horii)

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