CROMWELL, Conn. -- In a rare instance, Ryo Ishikawa won't be the youngest player in his group when he tees off Thursday morning at the Travelers Championship. Even rarer? He might not not even be the most-watched young gun in his pairing.
That honor probably will go to 20-year-old Patrick Cantlay, who is making his pro debut this week at TPC River Highlands a year after firing a second-round 60 here as an amateur. Ishikawa has never played with the former UCLA star or John Peterson, the third member of the group who made his own splash with a T-4 at last week's U.S. Open. But the Japanese phenom, who is still three months shy of his 21st birthday and seems to travel with a caravan of media from his home country, doesn't seem to mind sharing the spotlight.
"To have somebody like Patrick to play in the same group is fantastic, and I'm very honored to play with him," Ishikawa said. "I've been to the range and I have seen him swing. He has a nice swing, and I look forward to playing with him."
Amazingly, it's been more than two years since Ishikawa burst onto the world golf stage when he shot a final-round 58 to win a Japan Golf Tour event -- coincidentally, the same day Rory McIlroy won his first PGA Tour event at Quail Hollow. His best PGA Tour finish came earlier this year when he was runner-up in the Puerto Rico Open, and he recently finished T-9 at the Memorial. Ishikawa said putting is his main focus this week after four three-putts last Friday turned out to be the main culprit in him missing the cut at Olympic Club.
He also hopes to join a recent list of players, including Bubba Watson and Hunter Mahan, who have picked up their maiden PGA Tour titles at this tournament. Certainly, the Travelers seems fitting as the site of a breakthrough win for Ishikawa, who might lead professional golf in frequent flyer miles considering he splits his time between two tours on opposite sides of the globe. In fact, this will be the last tournament in a taxing stretch of five consecutive events in the U.S.
"I really want to play well before I go back to Japan, so I can earn my PGA Tour card for next year," he said.
For such a young player, Ishikawa is taking an old-school approach this week when it comes to who will carry his bag. Having never played TPC River Highlands before this week, he has employed local caddie Kevin Smith. It's a move he's done several times of late to help him deal with unfamiliar surroundings. So far, he likes what he sees.
"This course is a great place to play, especially with the pin placements," Ishikawa said. It's very aggressive. That's kind of the style I play."
-- Alex Myers
(Photo: Harry How/Getty Images)