Golf: Els swings for Asia

It's been five years since Y E Yang won Asia's first Major, but Ernie Els believes it won't take another five before someone from the continent wins another one of golf's biggest prizes.

Speaking to The New Paper yesterday, the World Golf Hall of Fame inductee felt names like Bae Sang Moon, Hideki Matsuyama and Ryo Ishikawa could be the ones to make the breakthrough.

South Korea's Yang won the 2009 PGA Championship, and it remains the only Major trophy to land in Asian hands.

But four-time Major champion Els said: "There are so many good (Asian) players winning on the US PGA Tour on a very regular basis. And that's the biggest and most international Tour.

"Some of the Korean players, like Bae Sang Moon, are winning, Hideki Matsuyama is winning... With Ryo (Ishikawa), you're going to see big things. I still see a Major in him.

"Asian players are playing well in Europe as well, Thongchai Jaidee has won there. On the Asian Tour there are some wonderful players, like Anirban Lahiri who won last week (at the Venetian Macau Open).

"These guys have to kick on and win Majors. It's only a matter of time... It's hard to put a timeline on it but it'll probably be before five years, I imagine.

"Because some of these guys are young and hungry and they understand the game."

Els, the world No. 51, was speaking on the sidelines of the opening of his first golf course in South-east Asia, The Els Club Teluk Datai in Langkawi, Malaysia.

The 45-year-old South African won the US Open in 1994 and 1997, and the British Open in 2002 and 2012. Known as the "Big Easy", Els is a fan favourite with his seemingly languid swing, superb touch, calm and fuss-free attitude and friendly style.


Even as the Japanese and South Koreans continue to be Asia's standard-bearers on the global stage, Els feels that China could be the next golfing power.

He recently remarked that it was "incredible" to see Guan Tianlang make the cut for the 2013 US Masters at just 14 and claimed the world's most populous nation will inevitably produce a Major champion.

He said: "Golf has become really popular in China with a lot of courses built.

"But that's only been in the last 10 years. So the accessibility for youngsters to play on world-class golf courses has only been in recent years, so you got to give them a little bit of time.

"Maybe, in an another five to 10 years, you will start seeing the Chinese influx into golf in a major way."

With 16-year-old Tianlang and compatriot Ye Wocheng, who last year became the youngest player to compete on the European Tour at age 12, China is already producing potential.

Although it's one thing to be dubbed a golfing prodigy and another to fulfil that promise, which is why Els had some advice for the talented teenagers - don't listen to people too much.

He said: "These youngsters just have to play... There is so much pressure on some of these guys to deliver now.

"Golf is a sport for a lifetime. I know you guys want results now but the more you want results the more pressure there is.

"You got to be loose on the course to be able to play good... The talent will take care of itself."

This article was first published on October 29, 2014.
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