Published: Thursday December 6, 2012 MYT 4:20:00 PM
Japan star Ishikawa eyes emulating 'hero' McIlroy
CHONBURI, Thailand: Japanese golf star Ryo Ishikawa on Thursday said he has two years to catch up with his "hero" Rory McIlroy and hopes to end his barren run overseas with a win at the Thailand Golf Championship.
Ishikawa, 21, is two years younger than world number one McIlroy, whose four US PGA Tour victories in 2012 including the PGA Championship, saw him named Tuesday as the US tour's Player of the Year.
"I am 21, he is 23, so I have two years to get to his level," said Ishikawa, who has been tipped for great things since winning the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup in Japan in 2007 when he was just 15-years-old.
"McIlroy is the hero for all of us young players. We need more experience, but he shows us it is possible to play very well in the big events. I'm hopeful I can get to the same level."
He returned to the clubhouse at the Amata Spring course with a solid two under par 70, playing the first round with Masters champion Bubba Watson, who went around in 68.
Bidding for his first overseas title Ishikawa said he coped well with the course, despite the sweltering conditions and heavy rough, which contrast massively to his wintry homeland.
"There are great European and American players here and my dream is to be here on Sunday playing the back nine for the title against Bubba Watson," he said.
Ishikawa scored his first nine wins as a teenager, all at home. But he has been erratic in battles with big-hitting players overseas which left him struggling to find the right swinging form.
He secured his 10th victory last month at the Taiheiyo Masters, one of the Japan Tour's high-prized events, breaking a two-year spell without a win which saw his form and confidence plummet.
But his ability, allied with boyish good looks, has kept him in limelight in Japan, and a good showing in Thailand against a strong field will burnish that reputation. -AFP