Notes: Ishikawa chasing his Tour card

Ryo Ishikawa, of Japan, tees off on two while playing Paul Lawrie during the Match Play Championship.

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RIO GRANDE, Puerto Rico – Ryo Ishikawa commited to the Puerto Rico Open two weeks ago in hopes of qualifying for the Masters. He no longer has to worry about his Augusta National tee time after earning a special invitation earlier this week. His good play halfway through the Puerto Rico has another goal in reach, though.

Ishikawa shot 70-67 over the Puerto Rico Open’s first two rounds and is four shots off Matt Jones’ lead.

Ishikawa is chasing a PGA Tour card this year, and a large paycheck this week would help his quest to finish in the top 125 on the money list. He also can earn special temporary membership with a third-place finish this week. That status – earned by surpassing No. 150 on the previous year’s money list ($411,943) – would allow him to accept unlimited sponsor invitations and make unlimited starts. Ishikawa, because he is a nonmember, is limited to seven sponsor exemptions and 12 starts on the PGA Tour this year.

“Yeah. Yeah,” Ishikawa said when asked if he’s chasing a PGA Tour card. “I will try that, yeah.”

He’d have to finish solo third this week to earn special temporary membership. A two-way tie for third would leave him less than $5,000 short of membership.

The Puerto Rico Open is the fourth sponsor exemption Ishikawa has used this year, and the first of three consecutive weeks of PGA Tour competition. He intends to play Transitions next week and then Bay Hill on exemptions before the Masters. He could get into Transitions without a sponsor exemption by finishing in the top 10 in Puerto Rico, and get into Bay Hill if he moves back into the top 50 of the Official World Golf Ranking at week’s end.

The Masters invitation will not count against his exemption limit, nor would any starts Ishikawa would earn in the majors or World Golf Championships. They would count against his 12-start limit, though.

He has earned $204,471 this season for a tie for 13th at the Farmers Insurance Open, 72nd-place finish at the Northern Trust Open and T-17 at the WGC-Accenture Match Play. He missed the cut at the Sony Open.

Ishikawa hit just 10 of 18 greens Friday, but needed just 22 putts. He has hit just 50 percent of his greens through two rounds.

“Short game today was very good,” he said. “The short game was the key thing.”

• • •

HIGH PRAISE: Alex Rocha, the lone current PGA Tour player from Brazil, praised the selection of architect Gil Hanse to build the Olympic golf course in his home country. Hanse beat out several larger names for the job, including teams headed by Jack Nicklaus and Greg Norman. Rocha admitted to being unfamiliar with Hanse’s work, but said: “I think the golf course is the most important thing, regardless of who signs their name by it. So if the golf course is great, the event is going to be great.

“From what I understand, the piece of land that they have to work with is suitable for a minimalist (architect) like him. I heard the comments Phil Mickelson said about his course in Scotland (Castle Stuart), and if Phil has something that nice to say about a designer, then he must be really good,” Rocha said. “I haven’t done my homework to fully give a better perspective, but everything I’ve ever heard about him is great. I know that the piece of land is very suitable for an architect of his character.”

Rocha missed the Puerto Rico Open cut after rounds of 75-74.

• • •

REMEMBER DEREK TOLAN? He was just 16 years old when he played the 2002 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black. Tolan resurfaced at the Puerto Rico Open, where he earned a sponsor exemption after winning a one-spot qualifier on the Friday before the event. Tolan shot 73-72 this week to make the cut. He was inside the cut line when the morning wave finished.

This would be the first made PGA Tour cut of Tolan’s career. His only previous starts came at the ’02 Open (83-88) and 2010 Valero Texas Open (76-74). He made five of six cuts on the Nationwide Tour last year.

Tolan was an honorable mention All-American at Colorado in 2009. He turned pro later that year.

• • •

FIRST IMPRESSION: Edward Figueroa, who earned a sponsor exemption by winning the AJGA’s Puerto Rico Junior Open, shot 72-74 and missed the cut by a shot. Figueroa will graduate from high school later this year and has signed a letter of intent with Florida Gulf Coast. Figueroa lives in Naples, Fla., but because his father was born in Puerto Rico, he is eligible to represent the commonwealth in international team competition.

• • •

PUTTING WOES: Jhonattan Vegas missed the cut by a shot with rounds of 71-75. Either way, his problem was immediately evident. He walked off the ninth green (his 18th) and immediately deposited his putter into a trash can. He hit 15 greens Friday, but had 36 putts, averaging 2.133 putts per GIR. Vegas has earned just $103,300 this year, $64,000 of which came from his last-place finish at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. He hasn’t earned more than $15,000 or finished higher than T-46 in a full-field event this year. He is exempt through the end of the 2013 season for his victory at last year’s Humana Challenge.

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