Golf: Ryo Ishikawa should learn from Rory McIlroy the new U.S. Open Champion
Lee Jay Walker
Modern Tokyo Times
Ryo Ishikawa is a very likeable golfer from Japan and his heart is in the right place but something seems amiss at the moment. Ishikawa himself stated “I came to painfully realize just how big of a gap there is between me and the best in the world,” Ishikawa commented after the 2011 U.S. Open. He continued by stating with regards to Rory McIlroy that “He’s close to me in age so it’s been incredibly motivating. I hope I can get to that level myself one day.”
Firstly, it must be remembered that Rory McIlroy who comes from Northern Ireland is a rare talent and one that only emerges every decade or so. Not only did he blow Ishikawa away but he destroyed the entire field and Tiger Woods in his glory days could not surpass the score that McIlroy achieved at the same tournament.
Prior to McIlroy winning the U.S. Open he had started fantastically in other major tournaments but then he could not hold it together. However, McIlroy is only 22 years of age and after the last day of the Masters this year, it was clear that he had learnt something. Therefore, when he created a commanding lead in the U.S. Open he not only held the lead but he never allowed anyone to get even close to him.
If we look at the mindset of both Ishikawa and McIlroy then clearly they are different and this is notable when they talk about Tiger Woods. Ishikawa stills talks admirably about Tiger Woods but McIlroy is more honest and states that he is no longer to be feared like he once was.
Last year McIlroy stated about Tiger Woods that “Unless his game rapidly improves in the next month or so, I think anyone in the European team would fancy his chances against him.”
This comment may have been blown up out of all proportion but it does tell us about the mindset of McIlroy. Also, it was not a brash comment at the time because it was factual and while it may have been a little blunt it showed that McIlroy is already moving on irrespective if Tiger Woods bounces back from time to time.
McIlroy clearly knows that Tiger Woods was a great player at his peak but in recent times it is clear that others have caught up with him and younger players don’t fear him. Therefore, while the record of Tiger Woods speaks for itself and without a question of a doubt we are talking about one of the greatest players to ever play golf; it is time for Ishikawa to find the right attitude and not to feel second best.
Only a few players in the history of golf like Jack Nicklaus can be named alongside Tiger Woods and clearly Tiger Woods will still have many great tournaments in the future. Therefore, you can’t write him off because when he is in the zone then he is very special indeed and a joy to watch. However, McIlroy and the young Matteo Manassero from Italy, and a few other young players like Rickie Fowler (USA) and Jason Day (Australia), are emerging rapidly.
Manassero looks to be a future champion in the making and he and McIlroy will clearly have great duels in the future and of course other players out of the pack will emerge. Therefore, Ishikawa’s generation and players under the age of 25 look to be a high level bunch to say the least because you have so many other young players like Danny Lee (New Zealand), Peter Uihlein (USA), Yuta Ikeda (Japan) and Kyung Tae-Kim (South Korea).
It also must be stated that Martin Kaymer (Germany), Dustin Johnson (USA) and Gary Woodland (USA) are only just over 25 years of age. The list could be added but the point is clear because Ishikawa is one of many highly talented players who are very young.
McIlroy is already destined for great things because the U.S Open was waiting for him but with his first major under his belt, then surely the numbers will continue to add up in the future. McIlroy is rare and he learns quickly and you can feel something special when you watch him play golf.
Ishikawa should not be too despondent or negative because nobody could get close to McIlroy in the U.S. Open. More important, he made the cut in the Masters this year and while other lesser tournaments have been rather negative; the same can’t be said about the way he played in the Masters and the U.S. Open.
I question why Ishikawa is focusing on the Japanese PGA so much because surely the European PGA or USA PGA should be his target? He obviously does not think so but ironically Ishikawa seems to be in a little trap because clearly he can win in Japan but maybe he can no longer find the same motivation?
Also, other players from Japan and who play on the Japanese PGA aim themselves at him because he is the star, even if it isn’t showing at the moment. Surely, with Ishikawa reaching 20 years of age in September then a fresh start should push him on or at least level up his game.
At the moment the number one player in the world is debatable but McIlroy looks poised to take over this mantle. However, nothing is certain in sport or life and while McIlroy looks destined for great things it is still true to comment that many young players are developing rapidly.
Tiger Woods in recent times was beset with family problems and this was followed by health problems. He will surely challenge in the near future but not with the same consistency but a potent force nevertheless and the old guard isn’t finished yet.
For now the focus is on McIlroy because of not just winning but absolutely destroying the field at the U.S. Open.
Therefore, Ishikawa needs a clear direction in order to utilize his natural talent and maybe the commercial side should be reduced a little because while he is treated like a star and golf great in Japan; the same can’t be said about his international performances.
Yes, Ishikawa is a fantastic player and he is still very young and learning but what can he learn from playing against the same players in Japan?
This is not taking anything away from golfers in Japan because some players are of the highest quality but collectively the Japanese tour is weak overall but it is a great to nurture talent. Therefore, Yuta Ikeda (Japan), Kyung Tae-Kim (South Korea) and other good young players are learning the trade and then doing well in stronger fields outside of Japan.
However, for Ishikawa the Japan tour was all too easy from day one and it soon became apparent that winning in Japan would come often for Ishikawa but this year is a bit of a damp squib at the moment. In saying that, he often finds form from out of the blue and then goes on a run where he is very consistent.
Next year will be very important for Ishikawa because with so many good young players around and with McIlroy looking so strong; then Ishikawa needs to improve his game to a higher level. After all, the talent is clearly visible in Ishikawa but advisors close to him must be questioned because he seems to be a little stuck at the moment and “too nice” for his own good.
Also, Ishikawa can’t rest in Japan because Hideki Matsuyama who is 19 years old and other young players have a lot of promise. Therefore, the remainder of this year will be interesting and next year will tell us more about the place of Ishikawa amongst the rising stars of golf.
That saying, Ishikawa is still very young and clearly time is on his side.
However, with McIlroy being so strong and Manassero being blessed with so much talent then it isn’t going to be easy for Ishikawa to move to the next stage. Also, younger players in Japan like Hideki Matsuyama and Yuta Ikeda are highly talented and Masamichi Ito who is only 15 years old should make the grade within a few years.
Therefore, the road lane is getting jammed packed and while McIlroy is out in front it is difficult to see who will join him over the next 15 years with the possible exception being Manassero.
Yes, these are great days for golf lovers and Ishikawa should not become despondent or give out too many platitudes. Instead, he needs to nurture the talent that he is blessed with and maybe a fresh change or change of management will enable him to move on to the next level?