By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
AKRON, Ohio -- Ryo Ishikawa remembers seeing Tiger Woods on the putting green earlier this week and saying hello. Wood’s response?
"'Why did you cut your hair?'" the Japanese teenager recalled Saturday with a smile.
And Ishikawa's answer? "Too hot here. Too hot," he said, giving a rare answer in perfect English after shooting a 64 that left him one shot off Adam Scott's lead with one round remaining in the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational.
The 19-year-old Ishikawa, who sported curls at the British Open where his black hair is now close cropped, is 18 holes away from his breakthrough win in the United States. He already has 11 wins around the world but just one top-10 24 previous PGA TOUR events.
Despite his lofty position on the leaderboard and the potential for a career-defining win on Sunday, though, Ishikawa didn't want to get ahead of himself. He preferred to dwell on his bogey-free performance in the third round.
"I think it's a little too early to think about winning this whole thing as of now," he said through an interpreter. "But I do feel that I was able to play at a pretty good level, pretty high level today. Actually I am a little bit surprised of how I performed out there.
“There were times where I had to do some trouble shots, hitting out from the woods, but when I was able to make those recovery shots, there were some really warm claps and all from the fans. So I was very happy to be out there today."
Ishikawa leads the field in putting after the 24 he used on Saturday brought his total through three rounds to just 72. He hasn’t been as steady off the tee, hitting just 21 of 42 fairways this week, but he did managed 12 greens in regulation on Saturday.
Ishikawa, who is donating his earnings this year to the tsunami relief effort in Japan, said a tie for 20th at the Masters was a big confidence boost and made playing in the U.S. “fun.” He has yet to win in Japan this year but he’s been runner-up twice and third on two other occasions.
“I think the golf that I'm playing right now is unstable in a sense,” Ishikawa said. “And so considering that, I'm not really sure as to how I will perform tomorrow to be honest with you.
“Right now what I'm focusing on is out on the field. Instead of going in there telling myself that I need to compete, I look at it as going out on the practice field and taking practice swings, so that has been my theme as of now.”