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Superstar Ishikawa heads back to SMBC Singapore Open 

SINGAPORE, JANUARY 7: Ryo Ishikawa, the hugely popular Japanese star who rekindled memories of his wunderkind days with three wins in 2019, has fired a warning to his rivals at next week’s SMBC Singapore Open.

Ishikawa, the so-called ‘Bashful Prince’, said that he is swinging freer than during his previous visits to Sentosa Golf Club and predicted even better results in 2020.

“I feel very good about my physical condition now,” said Ishikawa, whose well-documented back problems restricted his movement. “I can swing the way I want to swing.

“I (hope) to do much more this season.”

The 28-year-old Ishikawa will act as a magnet for the galleries at the SMBC Singapore Open from January 16-19.

Major winners Justin Rose of England and Sweden’s Henrik Stenson, American Matt Kuchar, a multiple winner on the PGA Tour, and in-form defending champion Jazz Janewattananond, who went one better than Ishikawa with four victories in 2019, highlight the elite field in the joint-sanctioned Asian Tour and Japan Golf Tour Organisation event.

Ishikawa has drawn big crowds in his previous two appearances at Sentosa Golf Club and treated the fans to some inspired golf last year with rounds of 69 and 66 to lie joint second at the halfway mark before fading over the weekend.

A sensation in his teens, the now 28 year old is playing full time again on the Japan Tour after his back injury in 2016 interrupted his career.

Ishikawa 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 through with a triumph in August at the Segasammy Cup and then was victorious in the Golf Nippon Series JT Cup in December.

The Japanese now has 17 Japan Tour titles to his credit and seems to be back to the peak of his powers. His return to top form saw him surge into third place on the money rankings in Japan and he was 80th on the Official World Golf Ranking at the end of 2019.

He shot to fame in May 2007 when he became the youngest winner on the Japanese circuit at 15 years and eight months with victory at the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup. Still an amateur, the event was his first on the Japan Tour.

He turned professional in 2008 and won eight tournaments in a two-year spell, four of those victories coming in 2009.

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