SINGAPORE — Ryo Ishikawa moved into a share of the lead at the halfway stage of the Singapore Open on Saturday, raising hopes the former teen prodigy can finally win a tournament away from home.
Ishikawa completed his weather-interrupted second round with a 5-under 66 to join Chapchai Nirat in a two-way tie for the lead at 7-under 135 at Sentosa Golf Club.
Masters champion Sergio Garcia was in a five-man group, another stroke back at 6 under, but on a heavily congested leaderboard where the top 29 players were within three shots of the lead.
Garcia, who held a share of the first-round lead, birdied the final hole to end a run of eight straight pars and shot a second-round 70.
“I felt like I hit the ball OK,” Garcia said. “My putting and all went great but my speed hasn’t been great on this green, so let’s see if I can be a little more aggressive on the rounds this weekend.”
The Spaniard credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his first major championship title at Augusta National because of the tough conditions and stifling humidity of southeast Asia.
Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later. And he’s already feeling confident of his chances of success this weekend, but he’s hoping for better luck with the weather.
“Let’s see if we can finish the round — that will be nice,” he said. “But I think if I can play 4 under I should have a chance.”
Ishikawa’s round was less routine than Garcia’s after he returned to the course just after dawn to resume where he left off the night before. He racked up eight birdies but also double-bogeyed the tricky third hole for the second time in succession and dropped a shot at the sixth.
“It was a short night, but I had a good sleep and just putted well,” Ishikawa said. “[The] greens are a little quicker than yesterday, but I still figured [out] that speed.”
A teenage star, Ishikawa was thrust into the spotlight more than a decade ago. In 2007, he became the youngest player to win on any of the major tours in the world. He was a 15-year-old amateur when he won the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup.
The “Bashful Prince” received rock-star treatment in Japan and had the largest entourage of photographers. He turned pro at 16, first played in the Masters when he was 17 and the Presidents Cup when he was 18. He shot 58 in the final round to win The Crowns in Japan when he was 19.
Now 26, Ishikawa has struggled with injuries and form in recent years. He lost his PGA Tour card and hasn’t played in any of the majors since 2015. He has won 15 times as a professional. He has never won outside his homeland of Japan but is hopeful he can change that soon.
“My tee shot is getting better, especially in the last nine holes,” he said. “So if I could hit straighter, I can make more birdies in the next 18 holes.”
Chapchai was able to sleep in and put his feet up on Saturday morning after he completed his second round on Friday, just before play was suspended because of lightning strikes in the area.
To make up for lost time, event organizers announced the third round would be played in groups of three off two tees.