Golf

Ryo Ishikawa swings back to SMBC Singapore Open

Ryo Ishikawa, the hugely popular Japanese star who rekindled his wunderkind days with three wins last year, has fired a warning to his rivals at next week's SMBC Singapore Open.

Ishikawa, nicknamed the "Bashful Prince", said that he is swinging more freely than during his previous visits to Sentosa Golf Club and predicted even better results this time.

"I feel very good about my physical condition now," said Ishikawa, whose well-documented back problems restricted his movement in recent years.

"I can swing the way I want to swing. I (hope) to do much more this season."

Major winners Justin Rose of England and Sweden's Henrik Stenson, and American Matt Kuchar, a multiple winner on the US PGA Tour, headline the elite field in the event jointly sanctioned by the Asian Tour and Japan Golf Tour Organisation.

The in-form defending champion Jazz Janewattananond, who went one better than Ishikawa with four victories last year, is another threat to the Japanese's title hopes.

Ishikawa attracted big crowds in his two previous appearances at the Sentosa Golf Club and is expected to be a huge draw for the galleries at the SMBC Singapore Open from Jan 16-19.

At last year's edition, he treated the spectators to some inspired golf with rounds of 69 and 66 to lie joint- second at the halfway mark, before fading over the weekend.

Ishikawa shot to fame in May 2007, when he captured the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup, becoming the youngest winner on the Japanese circuit at 15 years and eight months.

RETURN TO FORM

A sensation in his teens, he is playing full-time again on the Japan Tour after his back injury in 2016 interrupted his career.

The 28-year-old revisited some of his youthful feats in 2019 with two victories within seven weeks on the Japan Tour, followed by success in the end-of-season finale.

He won the Japan PGA Championship in early July, followed by the Segasammy Cup in August and then the Golf Nippon Series JT Cup last month.

He now has 17 Japan Tour titles. His return to top form saw him surge to third place on the Japanese money rankings. He was 80th on the Official World Golf Ranking at the end of 2019.

Golf