Yang takes aim at Chiangmai Golf Classic

golf-1Chiangmai, Thailand: Asia’s first Major winner Y.E. Yang is determined to rise from a ‘terrible’ 2012 season by winning the inaugural US$750,000 Chiangmai Golf Classic presented by PTT which starts on Thursday.

The Korean sensation is among a star-studded cast assembled at the Alpine Golf Resort-Chiangmai which includes four-time Major winner Ernie Els of South Africa, Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand, who won the Maybank Malaysian Open last week, and highly rated Indian Gaganjeet Bhullar.

Former U.S. Open champion Michael Campbell of New Zealand and three-time Asian Tour Order of Merit champion Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand will also feature in Chiangmai’s first ever tournament on the Asian Tour, which is celebrating its milestone 10th season in 2013.

Yang, who is famous for winning the 2009 U.S. PGA Championship when he defeated world number one Tiger Woods, has endured a lean spell with only one top-20 on the PGA Tour and another top-10 on the Asian Tour last season.

“Last year was more psychological than physical. Technique wise, swing wise and form wise, it wasn’t that bad. I just put too much pressure on myself. The winless run added a lot pressure on me at every tournament I participated and as the year went by, the pressure mounted more and more,” said Yang, who recorded his last victory in 2010.

“This year, I’m more relaxed mentally and physically. It’s translated to a better start than last year. My form and psychology is improving. Hopefully I can get back to the state where I can get my confidence high,” he added.

With the Masters Tournament looming in two weeks’ time, Yang, who is an Asian Tour Honorary Member, wants to ensure he heads to Augusta National in buoyant mood with a good showing in Chiangmai. He believes he has the game to win the Masters where he tied for eighth in 2010.

“It is certainly winnable. You play the same course every year and you have a feel of the whole layout and tournament. I feel it’s the better Major for the Asians to excel,” said the 41-year-old.

“I’m going to try to go for another win and hopefully the Masters will be my second Major. I do think that with repetitive practice and competition, I think it does make the odds in my favour. I think Augusta National is winnable. I won’t say I can win it but it is winnable.”

The self-taught Yang is confident his fortunes will change starting with this week’s Chiangmai Golf Classic. “I think I am my best teacher both physically and mentally. But I had help from friends and family. I’m a devout Buddhist and I believe in the circle of how life fluctuates. People have told me to wait for my fortune to come back. It comes naturally to you just as it did in 2009,” he smiled.

Campbell, who is among three Major champions in the field, hopes to produce a consistent run to contend for his first title since 2005. He plans to take a more laid-back approach in hope of playing his best golf.

“My form has been up-and-down again. I had a chance to win the Portugal Masters and Hong Kong Open last year. I had solid weeks in Qatar and Abu Dhabi this year. I missed a couple of cuts after that but it is no big deal. That’s the way that I play and the way golf is. Hopefully this week will turn things around for me,” said the 44-year-old.

“The last six months has been unusual. I had chances to win tournaments and then I miss a few cuts. That’s the way I am … the way I’m wired. I think the more I try to fix it, the worst I get. I just want to think about the next day and hopefully things will go my way.”

Campbell, who has won seven European Tour titles but not since 2005, insists he still has enough fight in him to challenge for more honours. “There are days where I do not want to practice. I have nothing to prove and nothing to lose. My career in the last 23 years has been pretty good. I can’t complain. I’m fortunate to be playing the game and I can still compete. I’m not looking at it in a negative way. It is all positive for me,” he said.

Home star Thongchai will have one last chance to try to qualify for the Masters Tournament but needs nothing less than an outright victory in Chiangmai to break into the world’s top-50.

“It’s my dream and if I win, then I will qualify. I will try my best. I want to play well this week, there’s a good chance. If not, then no problem. I hit some balls at the range today and yesterday, the feeling is there. Last week was tough with the weather delays as you couldn’t get any momentum,” said the Thai, who is ranked 59th in the world.

The former paratrooper lauded the Chiangmai Golf Classic as important milestone for golf in Thailand and the Asian Tour. “This is the first Asian Tour tournament in Chiangmai and I’m very proud of it. I want to thank all the sponsors for bringing a tournament here,” he said.