Asian golf has come a long way, says Faldo

Kuala Lumpur: Six-time major champion Nick Faldo believes Asian golfers have come a long way in establishing themselves in the world’s pecking order.

The former world number one said it has taken time for Asians to leave an impression against the elite of the game but believes there is much more to come from the talent reservoir through the Asian Tour, the region’s elite professional golf circuit.

“It’s taken time,” said the Englishman at the recent HANDA FALDO Cambodian Classic in Siem Reap.

“When I was playing, Asia was really stuck in an Asian way of playing the game. They didn’t have Westernised coaching and that’s been a major change in the style of the golf swings in recent times,” added Faldo.

He cited the likes of Korean stars K.J. Choi and Y.E. Yang, both Asian Tour honorary members, as paving the way for Asian players to break down the notion that Asians could not succeed internationally.

In recent years, Choi has firmly established himself on the PGA Tour with eighth career victories while Yang became Asia’s first male Major winner with his triumph in the 2009 US PGA Championship.

The likes of Arjun Atwal and Jeev Milkha Singh, both from India, have won in America and Europe respectively while others such as Noh Seung-yul, Bae Sang-moon and Charlie Wi of Korea are making in-roads on the PGA Tour. Currently, there are 28 Asian and Japanese players ranked inside the world’s top-200.

“K.J.’s story is quite funny as he learned from my (instructional) videos and books and I really rate him and Y.E.” said Faldo.

“Right now for young Asian golfers, the inspiring thing for them is that at their age, the likes of (Rory) McIIroy, (Ryo) Ishikawa, (Jason) Day and Yani Tseng, you have these youngsters doing so well on the world stage.

“You might only be 16 years old now but you have a superstar idol who is only 22. This is kind of helping the game (in Asia). Once you have a few heroes to follow, it inspires others,” he added.

Faldo was delighted that the Angkor Golf Resort, which he designed, was used to stage the inaugural HANDA FALDO Cambodian Classic on the Asian Tour. American David Lipsky won the event in a play-off against Filipino Elmer Salvador which Faldo was at hand to watch the closing stages of the final day.

With other projects in Phnom Penh and Vietnam, he is hoping to see more of his golf courses being picked for top professional events.
“We’re doing one in Vietnam and another one in Phnom Penh which is purpose designed for tournament golf. With the expansion of the Asian Tour, I think it’ll be cool, and who knows maybe we can have a European Tour event out here on one of my golf courses,” he said.

Faldo agreed to lend his name to the inaugural HANDA FALDO Cambodian Classic following his association with Dr Haruhisa Handa, chairman of the International Sports Promotion Society (ISPS) which also supports the Faldo Series Asia, a junior development programme.  Dr Handa is on a mission to push disabled golf into the Paralympic Games in 2020 or 2024.

“Dr Handa got involved to support my series and that is why I’m here to give my thanks for his participation,” said Faldo.

“It’s brave. We’ve got golf back in Rio (De Janeiro) in 2016 and it’ll be exciting to see how that goes. If paraplegic golf can be considered, I think it will be important. You feel for them but you are amazed at their determination to want to play the game with their disabilities. It’s impressive. I hope it does happen as it will give them great encouragement,” said Faldo.