LYTHAM ST ANNES, England (Reuters) - There is no better partner to play alongside this week than five-times British Open champion Tom Watson and Japanese sensation Ryo Ishikawa has that chance again on Thursday and Friday.
The 20-year-old, already a 10-times professional winner, partnered American great Watson, 62, in the 2010 Open at St Andrews.
“I’ve got more experience in the last two years so I want to show Tom how I play now. It’s going to be a great two days,” Ishikawa told Reuters in an interview while braving a cold Lytham wind on the eve of the championship.
“It was a great experience for me two years ago at St Andrews.”
“Ishikawa? He’s got it,” said Watson at the 2010 Open in reference to the youngster known as the ‘Bashful Prince’ for his unassuming demeanor.
Media hype has followed the Japanese since he became the youngest male winner of a professional tournament when he triumphed on his home tour aged 15 years and eight months.
At the Old Course in 2010 he honored his media duties despite his struggles with the English language.
His linguistic skills are improving and so is his golf - he threatened to become the youngest winner on the U.S. PGA Tour in 100 years at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in August before finishing fourth.
Ishikawa also recorded a best U.S. PGA Tour finish of second at the Puerto Rico Open in March this year.
“Of course I will try to win this week, like other weeks. The first two days are going to be very important for me,” he said.
Accustomed to playing in Japan’s warmer climate, Ishikawa said mastering the conditions at Lytham would be the key to his chances of becoming the second male Asian major winner after South Korean Yang Yong-eun clinched the 2009 U.S. PGA Championship.
“The course is in perfect shape though it’s a big difference from what I‘m used to on the Japanese tour,” said Ishikawa who tied for 27th at the 2010 British Open and missed the cut in 2009 and 2011.
“Especially with the wind and the bunkers and the hard ground. One minute low shot, next time high ball.”
For all the pressure on his young shoulders, Ishikawa remains modest and appreciative of the opportunity to play the game he loves.
“I‘m very honored to be here because of those who support me, the fans and sponsors and my team,” he said, a handful of Japanese spectators watching on in awe as he goes through an impressive repertoire of shots.
Ishikawa will hope to feed off first and second round partners Watson and 2010 U.S. PGA Championship winner Martin Kaymer of Germany as he seeks to get into the title mix in a major for the first time.
The world number 62 has missed both major cuts this year while his best finish in a big four tournament is a tie for 20th at the 2011 U.S. Masters.
Editing by Tony Jimenez