Asia on the rise as Open approaches

Wins by Thongchai Jaidee and Jeev Milkha Singh on European soil over the past two months have sent Asian hopes soaring at the British Open which starts on Thursday.

Thailand’s Thongchai was victorious in the Wales Open in June, while India’s Singh triumphed at the Scottish Open on Sunday to reinforce the growing strength of golf in Asia.

A total of 12 Asian Tour members, who include K.J. Choi and Y.E. Yang of South Korea and reigning Asian number one Juvic Pagunsan of the Philippines, will tee up at Royal Lytham and St Annes hoping to deliver a second major victory for Asia following Yang’s historic win at the 2009 PGA Championship.

Singh’s play-off triumph at Castle Stuart was timely as it proved that Asians can win on a links course.

Choi, the first Asian Tour player to really hit it big on the USPGA Tour where he is now an eight-time winner, said the recent success will have a great effect on the younger generation of players.

"Jeev’s win is good for the young generation. They will want to follow him. There will be more Asians in Europe and America very soon," said Choi.

The Korean strongman was previously flying the flag single-handedly at major events but this week, he will be joined by several other Korean players including Bae Sang-moon and Kim Kyung-tae.

Choi will not be surprised if Singh continues to ride on his winning form at Royal Lytham.

He has been playing for a long time in Europe. When the wind blows, he can make his shots. He knows how to play," said Choi.

India’s Anirban Lahiri, who will make his major debut this week, enthused that Asian golf was on the upward trend thanks very much to the influence of the Asian Tour, the region’s elite circuit.

"Jeev’s win is great for the Asian Tour and fantastic for India. With Thongchai winning as well in Wales last month, it goes to show that our players can win in Europe and it’s a good thing. It certainly will inspire players like myself," he said.

Thai veteran Prayad Marksaeng, playing in his fifth British Open, was also delighted with the recent winning run by Asian players.

"It’s good to see Asian players winning European Tour events in Europe. Jeev and Thongchai have a lot of experience and it’s a good sign for the others. For me, I’ve won in Asia and Japan, now I would really like to win something bigger," he said.

While the vagaries of links golf are still very much unfamiliar to many Asian players, Thongchai believes that the game has the knack of delivering surprises.

"Jeev played so good in those conditions last week. You never know in golf who will win," the Thai veteran said.

Asian Tour Executive Chairman Kyi Hla Han added: "It has been a very good two months for the Asian Tour stars.

"Thongchai and Jeev have proven once again that our members can compete and win tournaments abroad and the timing is perfect with The Open Championship starting on Thursday."

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