Sport Asia
Don't Miss

Golf: Els names four young Asian stars most likely to win a Major

Hideki Matsuyama, 23, will compete in his eighth straight Major at the Masters Tournament. Photo: AFP.

Hideki Matsuyama, 23, will compete in his eighth straight Major at the Masters Tournament. Photo: AFP.

March 25, 2015: Ernie Els has named Japanese youngsters Hideki Matsuyama and Ryo Ishikawa, Korea No. 1 Bae Sang-moon and India No. 1 Anirban Lahiri as the most likely contenders to become Asia’s next Major winner.

 

YE Yang of Korea was the first Asian man to claim a Major when he beat Tiger Woods to win the 2009 PGA Championship and now a new generation of stars has emerged from across the continent.

 

Matsuyama, 23, is currently World No. 16, having won his maiden PGA Tour title last June and collected four other top-three finishes in the USA, in addition to his six Japan Tour wins. Ishikawa, also 23, has won 11 times on the Japan Tour and twice finished runner-up on the PGA Tour.

 

Bae, 28, won his second PGA Tour title last October, while Lahiri, 27, made his name globally by winning two European and Asian Tour co-sanctioned events last month.

 

Els believes the quartet are leading the new Asian charge in golf, succeeding the likes of Shigeki Maruyama, KJ Choi and Yang.

 

“It’s more than five years since YE Yang claimed Asia’s first Major, but my view is it won’t be that long again before someone from the Asian Tour wins another,” said Els, a four-time Major winner with over 70 pro titles across the world.

 

“There are so many good Asian players already winning on the PGA Tour – guys like Sangmoon Bae, Hideki Matsuyama, Ryo Ishikawa – and Anirban is playing some fantastic golf and getting a taste of golf on the world stage.”

 

Anirban Lahiri, 27, will play in next week’s Masters, the fourth Major of his career. Photo: Asian Tour.

Anirban Lahiri, 27, will play in next week’s Masters, the fourth Major of his career. Photo: Asian Tour.

Els has been particularly impressed with Lahiri’s recent rise to World No. 35 and the top of the Asian Tour Order of Merit, the Indian having finished second in the money list last year.

 

“Having played with Anirban a couple of years ago and been very impressed with his game, it was no surprise to see him win the title in Macau (Venetian Macau Open last October),” said the South African, an honorary member and international ambassador for the Asian Tour.

 

“He’s really pushed on from there, too, winning the Maybank Malaysian Open and Hero Indian Open in a span of three weeks last month and rising in the Official World Golf Ranking. That comes with all sorts of perks, not least that he can now qualify for the International team for the Presidents Cup and also play in World Golf Championships events and the Majors.”

 

Els said Asia’s “hungry” young stars need to target Majors, but also have to remain patient in their quest for success.

 

“These guys are young and they’re hungry and they understand what it takes to win golf tournaments. They now have to kick on and win Majors. At the same time, they have to remember that golf is a sport for a lifetime,” Els said.

 

“Understandably they want results now, but sometimes the more you want results the more pressure there is. You have to be loose on the course in order to play your best golf. Talent will always take care of itself, if you let it.”

 

Lahiri will make his Masters Tournament debut next month thanks to his position on the world ranking and Els believes the seven-time Asian Tour winner will enjoy playing at Augusta National Golf Club.

 

“I almost envy the likes of Anirban and all the others making their debut because seeing Augusta National for the first time is an experience like nothing else,” said Els, who is still seeking a first Green Jacket after winning two Open Championships and two US Opens.

 

“The good thing is, that feeling doesn’t ever wear thin. I’ve been going there for 20 years and still get a buzz driving up Magnolia Lane and seeing that famous old clubhouse.

 

“Winning a Green Jacket would obviously be a dream come true. I know what it takes to win Majors and my game is good enough. That’s what drives me to train and practise as hard as I still do.”

 

Source: Asian Tour (www.asiantour.com); Editing by SportAsia

You must be logged in to post a comment Login