Golf: Ryo Ishikawa takes aim at Tokyo Olympics after two-year drought

SINGAPORE – Despite suffering from a serious back injury in 2016, and being winless on the Japan Golf Tour for the next two years, Japan’s Ryo Ishikawa never doubted his ability to return to the peak of his game.

Ahead of this week’s SMBC Singapore Open, 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 weights 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 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, before injury threatened to derail his career.

His improved fitness, however, saw him clinching three victories on the Japan Golf Tour last year, making him the most successful golfer on the tour last season.

But Ishikawa is not done yet. “The three victories last year is just a number, but I am concentrating more on my game than the number of wins,” he said.

The world No.83 golfer 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 think I have a chance.”

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