• Kyodo News


Golf sensation Ryo Ishikawa aims to increase his average driving distance to 300 yards and improve his overall game with the goal of winning the Masters in two years.

“The reality may be that I haven’t reached a level where I can compete for a title on the U.S. PGA Tour,” Ishikawa said in a recent interview. “But I don’t want to give up on my dream of winning the Masters at age 20.”

Ishikawa could make two more Masters appearances before he turns 21 in September next year.

He has received an invitation to the 2011 tournament, following his 36th-place finish in the final world rankings of 2010.

Asked if he has any special thoughts on being 20 in nine months, Ishikawa said, “People don’t change abruptly. Figure skater Mao Asada-san is one year older than I am. I’ve seen her only on TV. She hasn’t really changed even after she turned 20, so I don’t think I’ll change much.

“But as for the dream I’ve had for myself since I was an elementary school student, I don’t want to change that. I want to put myself in title contention by next year’s Masters.”

Ishikawa has already won nine times on the Japanese tour, but he has missed the cut in both of his first two starts at Augusta National, with his best finish so far on the U.S. PGA Tour being a tie for 27th at the 2010 British Open.

“I think my feeling toward the Masters is so strong that I couldn’t really play my golf at Augusta the past two years. I used to be satisfied with just being at the Masters, but now I practice to win the tournament someday,” he said.

“At Augusta, I’ll never give up on winning as long as I’m within five strokes of the lead with nine holes left to play in the final round.”

Ishikawa also talked about one of his young rivals overseas — Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy.

“McIlroy is just two years older than I am, and he won on the U.S. tour in 2010. I may not be able to win now, but if I practice hard for two more years, I may be able to reach his level.”

McIlroy, currently 10th in the world rankings, captured his first career PGA Tour victory at the Quail Hollow Championship in Charlotte, N.C., in May.

Along with McIlroy, Ishikawa is regarded as one of the brightest youngsters in golf.

Looking back on his third year as a pro in 2010, Ishikawa said, “I improved in all areas — driving, iron play and putting. In the past, much of my focus in practice was on driving. But I had balanced practice in 2010.”

His average driving distance rose to 296.79 yards for third place on the JGTO Tour from 292.37 yards for ninth in 2009.

“My desire to improve my game has grown stronger year after year, and I think I still need to increase my distance. One of my biggest goals for 2011 is to reach 300 yards in average driving distance.”

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