GAINESVILLE, United States: Japan’s Ryo Ishikawa fired a hole-in-one during a sparkling eight-under-par 63 to grab a share of the lead on Thursday (Friday in Manila) at the US PGA Quicken Loans National.
The 23-year-old Asian star also reeled off six birdies in a row to match two-time US Open champion Retief Goosen, a South African twice Ishikawa’s age, atop the leaderboard at the 7,385-yard Robert Trent Jones Golf Club.
“It was a great day for my putting,” said Ishikawa after his best round of the year.
“I just putted them perfectly. I just didn’t miss a putt.”
The highlight was his eight-iron ace from 180 yards at the par-three fourth, his first in the US after three in Japan and another in Puerto Rico.
“Solid strike. Landed five or six yards past the flag and back to sink in,” said Ishikawa. “That was kind of a special moment.”
Matching the tour record of 59 was not out of the question with two par-five holes ahead of him but Ishikawa said he was so excited that parring his way to the clubhouse was a struggle.
“I was feeling like I wasn’t calm,” Ishikawa said. “It took about two holes to calm down. Number five was a par-five but it was difficult for me to make par.”
Two-time US and British Open champion Ernie Els eagled the par-five 14th and fired six birdies to share third on 64 with Americans Justin Leonard and Kevin Chappell. Els fought off a severe back spasm for his low PGA round of the year.
“I felt like anything was a bonus,” he said.
Birdie blitz boosts Tiger
Host Tiger Woods, the 14-time major winner who has struggled to make cuts this season, had bogeys on three of the first four holes but birdied the first four on the back nine in carding a 68.
“It was tough to turn it around, which I did,” Woods said. “I sucked it up and turned it around and posted a good number.”
England’s Justin Rose, the defending champion, closed with a bogey to shoot 66, saying, “When you miss a short one at the end it’s never fun to walk off the 18th. Five under is a good start.”
There were two holes-in-one on the day as Rickie Fowler aced the ninth from 184 yards with a seven iron. He was four adrift on 67.
The 203rd-ranked Ishikawa still seeks his first US title after 115 events over seven seasons.
“Still 54 holes to go,” Ishikawa said. “My goal for today was three- or four-under so it’s like twice (as good).”
Ishikawa began on the back nine with four pars before launching his birdie putt binge with an eight footer at 14 and one half that length at 15. He dropped a 23-foot birdie at the par-three 16th, sank 17-footers for birdies at 17 and 18 and closed the run with a six footer at the first.
At 23, Ishikawa is only three years younger than top-ranked Rory McIlroy and just a year older than Masters and US Open champion Jordan Spieth.
“I’m still young but not too young,” said Ishikawa. “Competing like Rickie and Rory and Jordan some day, that’s my goal. I’m not thinking about the age.”
Goosen, ranked 192nd and fighting to keep his playing rights for next season, fired four birdies on both the front and back nines and did ponder the age question at 46.
“It’s nice to get the youngsters giving the older guys a bit of a chance,” Goosen said. “I need to play well these next few events to make sure I’m here next year and have a job.”