JOHNS CREEK, Ga. (AP)—Japan’s Ryo Ishikawa nearly shot his age at the PGA Championship -- and that wasn’t a good thing for the 19-year-old sensation.
Ishikawa put six shots in the water on Thursday to finish with the worst score of his professional career, a 15-over 85 in the first round at Atlanta Athletic Club. It got so bad at one point that Ishikawa said he just “stopped counting.”
He was the only one. At the end of his day, it was Ishikawa’s worst round in three PGA Championship appearances and his highest score of the year, surpassing the 83 he posted at the Japan Golf Tour Championship.
“I think this is probably the first time I hit so many in the water,” Ishikawa said through an interpreter.
Ishikawa’s problems began early on the 11th, his second hole of the day, when he hit into the water and made double bogey. He took a 6 on the 15th, the 260-yard par-3 fronted by water, then had back to back double bogeys on the 17th and 18th holes.
Ishikawa went bogey, double bogey, double bogey on the second, third and fourth holes and it looked like he might have a chance at bettering the highest first-round PGA Championship score ever of 94 shot by Gary Campbell at Pebble Beach in 1977. But Ishikawa regained the form that has made him a nine-time winner on the Japan Golf Tour with pars on the final five holes.
“The last five holes I felt my swing came back,” Ishikawa said. “For tomorrow, I’d like to get that swing and have a good 18 holes.”
Ishikawa has struggled this season, entering the year’s final major without a victory after winning three times a year ago as an 18-year-old. He missed the cut at the British Open after a second-round 80 last month, but rebounded to tie for fourth a week ago at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
Ishikawa said his practice rounds went well and he anticipated a good showing. Instead, he said he grew stiffer and less confident with each mistake. He didn’t think nerves came into play.
“It was my technique that was the culprit,” he said.
Nicknamed the “Bashful Prince,” Ishikawa is the rising star of Japanese golf. That has taken a toll at times. He played 20 tournaments in 22 weeks largely because his tour and his sponsors want Ishikawa out in front of the public.
Ishikawa won his first Japan Tour event as a 15-year-old amateur, then took the tour’s money title at 17. He became the first player to shoot 58 on a major tour in winning The Crowns title last year.
Ishikawa has also displayed a generous heart, pledging all his 2011 tour earnings, currently at $490,964, plus $1,200 for each birdie he makes during the year to the Japan earthquake relief efforts.
He said he’s not pressured to do well by his donation because it’s cumulative and not depending on any one round.
Ishikawa said he’s been tweaking his swing recently and understands he’ll have days like this. Playing partner Adam Scott, winner of the Bridgestone last week, said it was difficult watching so talented a golfer as Ishikawa struggle. “When things start going the wrong way on a course like this, you can’t hide,” Scott said. “It was a tough day for him because I’m sure he would’ve been feeling good after last week.”
Ishikawa hopes to feel that way again, maybe as soon as Friday. The goal for the second round? “Birdies on every hole, all 18,” he said.