Ryo Ishikawa might have been more nervous reading a personal invitation from Arnold Palmer than when he won on the Japan Golf Tour at age 15 to become the youngest champion on any recognized tour.
Ishikawa, a 17-year-old sensation who already has risen to No. 60 in the world, has accepted a sponsor's exemption to play in the Arnold Palmer Invitational on March 23-26 at Bay Hill Club in Orlando, Fla.
He also accepted an invitation to the Northern Trust Open at Riviera, where he will make his PGA Tour debut Feb. 19, and the Transitions Championship at Innisbrook the week before Bay Hill.
Palmer, who has a history of recognizing international players before they achieve stardom, wrote to Ishikawa in December.
``I have been following your achievements in Japan and I am quite impressed with what you have accomplished at such a young age,'' Palmer said in his letter. ``I also understand that you have expressed an interest in taking your game to another level by playing some tournaments on the international scene with your eye on the future.
``This leads me to suggest that you might like to come to Florida next March and play in my Arnold Palmer Invitational.''
Ishikawa, who won the mynavi ABC Championship last year and finished fifth on the Japan money list, responded to the letter last week. He will get one of two exemptions that the PGA Tour commissioner reserves for international players.
``When I received your letter, I was so thrilled that my hands became shaky holding your letter,'' Ishikawa wrote. ``I am so honored to play your tournaments with such a great field. Although this is only my second year as a professional golfer and I need to work on a lot of things, it will be a great experience for my career. I will do my best.''
Tiger Woods is the defending champion at Bay Hill and could be back by then. Woods has not played since knee surgery a week after winning the U.S. Open in June.
Ishikawa, the youngest player to crack the top 100 in the world ranking, will make his first U.S. appearance next month at Riviera after accepting an exemption from the Northern Trust Open.
``Ryo Ishikawa attracts 'Tiger-like' attention in Asia, and it will be fun for a U.S. audience to see him for the first time at the Northern Trust Open while fans throughout the world watch him compete against the PGA Tour's best players,'' tournament director Tom Pulchinski said in a statement.
If he stayed among the top 64 in the world over the next four weeks, Ishikawa also will qualify for the Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona, which will be played the week after Riviera.
Ishikawa made history in 2007 as a 15-year-old freshman in high school by winning the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup, the youngest winner on a tour recognized by the Official World Golf Ranking.
He is known as the ``Shy Prince'' for his unassuming demeanor, but he already is among the most famous sportsmen in Japan. Along with his first victory as a pro, Ishikawa was runner-up at the Japan Open and the prestigious Dunlop Phoenix, where past champions include Woods and Padraig Harrington.
Palmer's invitation continues a tradition of spotting young talent and being among the first to invite them to PGA Tour events. Previous Bay Hill exemptions were given to two-time Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal in 1990, and to a pair of three-time major champions - Ernie Els of South Africa and Vijay Singh of Fiji - who were playing the European Tour in 1993.