AKRON, Ohio – There is a buzz here at the Bridgestone Invitational and it has not a thing to do with the fact that Tiger Woods is about to tee off.
Instead, the buzz surrounds a 19-year-old from Japan. Ryo Ishikawa has been on the world golf stage for a few years now. But after having already dominated his home tour, there has been great anticipation for his breakthrough performance outside of Japan.
Today could be the day.
Ishikawa is at 11 under, a stroke behind Adam Scott, with whom he’ll be paired for the final round of the $8 million World Golf Championship tournament at Firestone Country Club. Yes, the options for Ishikawa will be plentiful should he win, but one thing has to be ruled out – you won’t see the young man involved in the upcoming FedEx Cup playoffs.
The PGA Tour has put out a press release addressing that route, but it’s not a realistic one for Ishikawa. As a non-member, he doesn’t have any FEC points, even though he’s finished T-20 at the Masters and T-30 in the U.S. Open. He can have the cash that comes with whatever he does here at Bridgestone, but he’s still not a member and can’t get any FEC points.
If he were to win and declare PGA Tour membership, he’d have two tournaments – next week’s PGA Championship, then the following week’s Wyndham Championship – to compile points toward the top 125 in the FedEx Cup standings. Not only is that a long shot, it’s not feasible for a simple reason: Ishikawa has commitments to tournaments in Japan that he plans on keeping.
Opposite the first playoff tournament, the Barclays, is the Van H Cup, where Ishikawa was sixth a year ago. Then comes the Deutsche Bank Championship, opposite the Fujisankei Classic, where Ishikawa is the defending champion. The Ana Open (against the BMW Championship) and Panasonic Open (opposite the Tour Championship) are also tournaments Ishikawa figures to play.
Win or not today, Ishikawa’s time on U.S. soil will be over for 2011 after next week’s PGA Championship. That focuses the picture on the next big question: Should he be eligible for PGA Tour membership in 2012, would he take it?
The PGA Championship will be Ishikawa’s ninth PGA Tour tournament of the season and it wouldn’t be hard to factor in six more events to get him to the minimum of 15. But there’s also this – Ishikawa is under enormous pressure to support Japan’s PGA Tour and it would be a difficult decision for him.