Ryo Ishikawa Has A Birthday... and Earns His 2014 PGA Tour Card

Several years ago he was known as the Bashful Prince, a talented teenage golfer who stormed to the summit of fame in his native Japan and delighted fans everywhere with his sweet, shy smile.

Ryo Ishikawa played his first PGA Tour events in 2009.  Trailed by a constant crowd of Japanese journalists, his abilities impressed many as he lit up the fairways with a whimsical candy-colored wardrobe.

Expectations for the precocious phenom were stratospheric. By the Spring of 2010 more than a few golf scribes were looking for one of golf's alliterative young guns... Rory, Rickie or Ryo... to quickly become that mythical entity known as "the next Tiger".  In retrospect those predictions seem somewhat silly; here we are in waning months of 2013 and Tiger's just captured both the PGA of America's Player of the Year Award and the Vardon Trophy... for the 11th and 9th time, respectively. Even the most committed Tiger detractors seem to accept that we probably won't see "the next Tiger" any time in the forseeable future. Ever.

Gone are the candy colors, Ryo Ishikawa wears Callaway apparel
Meanwhile, Rory McIlroy's 2013 slump has earned him the title of "Buzzkill Player of the Year" while the affable Rickie Fowler... currently ranked 38 in the world... is getting more attention for his porno-mustachioed portrayal of a 70's era private dick than anything he's doing in competition.

Which brings us back to Ryo Ishikawa. Two years younger than his fellow guns, Ishikawa has yet to win on US soil. Recently there have been rumblings that the special invitations and exemptions he's received to play in major tournaments have, perhaps, been unwarranted. A less-than-stellar 2013 season only added to the criticism, and left his hopes for a 2014 card in question.

So, a couple of weeks ago, the 21-year-old veteran joined the battle for one of 50 cards awarded though the Tour Finals and...  to the delight of Ishikawa fans everywhere... his top 10 finishes in the series' last two events have secured him a 2014 spot... earned outright with the stellar play and perseverance he's been praised for for so many years. Oh, and a few days ago... the once- bashful prince turned 22.  It's been a good couple of weeks for Ryo and, one hopes, a harbinger of more good things to come in 2014.