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Golf | Asia

Ryo Ishikawa © Gallo Images

Watson tips rising star Ishikawa to win major

Masters champion Bubba Watson on Friday tipped Japanese star Ryo Ishikawa to win a major after playing two rounds with the highly rated 21-year-old at the Thailand Golf Championship.

Ishikawa is yet to win outside of his native Japan and has recorded just one victory in two years despite his star billing, but after playing alongside him at Amata Spring, Watson predicted a stellar future for the youngster.

"He's good enough to win at any level... he can win a major," he said, after watching the well-liked Japanese player sink nine birdies in an impressive 66, which gave him an eight under par overall score, within striking distance of the lead in Thailand.

"He's a good player, but he has a lot of years to catch up," Watson said, adding he was looking forward to seeing Ishikawa raise his game on the US tour.

Ishikawa finished 108th on the US PGA 2012 money list by earning $870 000 this season. He was among the top 125 players eligible to play on the 2013 tour without qualifying or being invited.

But he endured a horrendous two-year winless streak which he finally broke in November with a one-stroke win at the Taiheiyo Masters, one of the Japan Tour's high-prized events. It was his tenth domestic title.

He will play on the US tour fulltime from next season and said Thursday that he hopes to emulate his "hero", world No 1 Rory McIlroy.

"I am 21 he is 23, so I have two years to get to his level," said Ishikawa, who has been tipped for great things since winning a Japan title in 2007 when he was just 15 years old.


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