Japan's 'Tiger' on the prowl again after ending drought
Japanese golfer Ryo Ishikawa reacts just after sinking the birdie putt during the play-off with Komei Oda in the Sega Sammy Cup golf tournament in Chitose, Hokkaido Prefecture, on July 6, 2014 - by Jiji Press
Ishikawa shot to fame in 2007 by becoming the youngest winner on Japan's JGTO Tour at the tender age of 15. He earned the nickname "bashful prince" for blushing shyly under the glare of the media and of legions of fans -- many of them housewives previously uninterested in golf.
His coyness quickly evaporated as he went on to capture eight more tournaments from 2008 to 2010. The victories catapulted him to celebrity status in Japan and earned him vastly more money off the course in endorsements than on it.
Victory in Sunday's playoff against Komei Oda at the Sega Sammy Cup arrested a winless run dating back to November 2012 and gave the record-breaking Ishikawa an 11th career title.
"Hopefully now I can break through at the world level," the 22-year-old Ishikawa, burdened by suffocating pressure since his dramatic emergence, was quoted as saying by Japanese media on Monday.
"My swing was where I wanted it and I put the ball where I wanted to. I hit some world-class shots when I needed to," added Ishikawa, who joined the US PGA Tour in 2012 as one of the hottest properties in world golf.
Ishikawa, known for his trademark bubblegum pink shirts, credited countryman Hideki Matsuyama, also 22, for reigniting his hunger for the game following the slump.
Matsuyama, less windswept and glamorous than his rival, won his maiden PGA Tour title in Ohio last month.
"His win made me realise stuff," Ishikawa told the Nikkan Sports daily, admitting his game needed an overhaul.
"I was feeling the pressure of getting immediate results and just kept making superficial adjustments. I have been driving longer and hitting more greens but my shots haven't been world-class."
He added: "Hopefully this can be a start for me to push on at the highest level. I need to put in the work to catch up with Hideki and win titles in America as soon as possible."