VIRGINIA WATER, England - South Korean An Byeong Hun urged more Asian golfers to try their luck on the European Tour following his outstanding six-shot win in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.
The 23-year-old is in his rookie season on the main circuit after spending three years on the second-tier Challenge Tour and he achieved the biggest victory of his fledgling career by firing a sizzling seven-under closing round of 65 on Sunday.
"I'm always telling my friends in Asia that the European Tour is great," An told reporters after finishing with a 21-under-par tally of 267, a record for the championship in relation to par. "I keep telling them they should come over. There are a lot of good players and a lot of good events and great courses."
An became only the third rookie to win the championship in the 60-year history of the event, picking up a first prize of 833,330 euros (S$1.23 million) and climbing from 132nd in the world rankings to number 54.
It secured him a place in next month's US Open at Chambers Bay in Washington State, a three-year exemption to the British Open and a European Tour exemption that will last until the end of 2019.
The Korean, who became the youngest winner of the US Amateur title in 2009 at the age of 17, said his victory at Wentworth was "like a fifth major to me".
An paid tribute to the excellent grounding he received on Europe's second-tier circuit. "I couldn't have done this without playing the Challenge Tour for three years," he said.
"It definitely got me prepared. All year this year I have played great and it got me ready for this big event."
An went into the final round of the BMW PGA holding a share of the lead with Francesco Molinari but the Italian's hopes of landing a wire-to-wire victory and a first win in three years evaporated with a closing 74.
"I knew that leading for the first three days didn't count for anything. I knew there was a job to do and I couldn't do it," said the former Ryder Cup player.
"It was disappointing...but An played great. He hardly missed any shots and any putts so I think he deserves the title completely."