No Surprise: Ryo Ishikawa (Officially) Becomes PGA Tour Special Member
By Stephanie Wei under PGA Tour

Ryo (hopefully) coming to America

Ryo Ishikawa has officially taken up Special Temporary Membership for the rest of the 2012 season, according to the PGA Tour. As we mentioned last week, Ryo and his manager Mr. Itaya conveyed that they had already started the process and filed the paperwork, but that may have been lost in translation.

During the Transitions Championship, Ryo told me it was a “dream come true” to be in solid position to lock up his Tour card for the following season:

“Sunday was a big day for us (the Japanese),” said Ryo, referring to the one-year anniversary of the devastating tsunami in his native Japan. “I played well on Sunday, but George was just simply better than me.”

The $378,000 2nd-place check gave him $582,471 in winnings so far in 2012 to put him over the required amount needed for special temporary membership, which is granted to players who rake in more than No. 150 on the previous year’s money list. There’s a 60-day window for players who qualify to become a Special Temporary Member. He told reporters on Sunday, “I’m still thinking. I need some time to think about it, but that’s the direction I’ll be aiming for.”

(Sounds like that was the company line because he seemed pretty sure on Tuesday, but maybe things were lost in the language barrier — though Ryo’s English is quite good.)

The 20-year-old golfer has already started the process. His manager Atsushi Itaya told me on Wednesday that they had filled out and signed the required paperwork and given it to the Tour a few days ago. (I asked him three times to make sure nothing was being lost in translation because of the language barrier.) However, a Tour media official says it isn’t official yet — at least it hasn’t been processed through the Rules & Competition department. The whole thing is more of a formality than anything, though. And I figure hearing it from Ryo and his manager has to mean something.

He missed the cut at Innisbrook’s Copperhead course of course, hit range balls and practiced for hours immediately afterward), but a strong finish at Bay Hill this week would probably make him a lock to meet the requirement to earn regular membership.

Here’s the press release via the Tour:

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FL – The PGA TOUR announced Monday that Ryo Ishikawa of Japan has accepted Special Temporary Membership for the remainder of the 2012 season. In six starts, Ishikawa has earned $582,471, including a runner-up finish at the Puerto Rico Open presented by, where he surpassed the $411,943 (No. 150 on 2011 money list/Jason Bohn) needed for Special Temporary Membership.

Ishikawa, 20, is eligible to receive unlimited sponsor exemptions for the remainder of the 2012 season. Non-members are allowed a maximum of seven sponsor exemptions and can play a maximum of 12 PGA TOUR events. Special Temporary Members are not eligible to receive FedExCup points.

Ishikawa has the opportunity to join the PGA TOUR as a Regular Member for the 2013 season should his World Golf Championship money and official prize money equal or exceed 125th place on the 2012 Official PGA TOUR Money List.

Ishikawa is playing this week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard, eligible through his top 50 status in the Official World Golf Ranking through March 12.

Ryo is currently ranked No. 50 in the latest edition of the world rankings (dropping a few spots from No. 47 the previous week), but he’s already secured a spot in the Masters, courtesy of the special invitation from Augusta National Golf Club.

I don’t think this week’s course, Bay Hill, necessarily fits Ryo’s game very well. It’s another start, though, and another opportunity for him to gain experience playing on the PGA Tour. A strong finish would not just further validate the case for Ryo taking up full membership in 2012, but it’d obviously also boost his confidence going into the Augusta. If you follow me on Twitter, then you know I have a slight obsession with him. Cclearly I’m being a little facetious, but the kid is a rock star — he exudes charisma, along with the “it” factor, and he also seems like a down-to-earth guy, considering he could have turned out to be a major prima donna, socially awkward prick.

 (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)