Sentosa, Singapore: Four weeks, four consecutive victories around the world by Asian golfers. These are indeed great days for the Asian Tour and golf in the region.
Korea’s Jeunghun Wang, 20, completed back-to-back victories with a come-from-behind one-shot triumph in the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open on Sunday, a week after he had broken through in Morocco.
The slender Wang pipped Bangladeshi Siddikur Rahman on the last hole with a birdie to win the tournament tri-sanctioned by the Asian Tour, European Tour and Sunshine Tour.
Prior to Wang’s heroics, countryman and close friend Soomin Lee, 22, and China’s Li Haotong, also 20, were victorious in European Tour events in China which left quite a few observers and players buzzing with optimism about the future of the Asian Tour.
Korean-born Australian Unho Park, who was one of those who sprayed champagne on Wang after the last putt dropped, said the purple patch by Asian golfers showed the Asian Tour was on the right track in unearthing international-class players.
“It's great for the Asian Tour,” said Park, who is also a Board Member of the Tour.
“It shows that Asian players are very competitive and are a force to be reckoned with. The playing standard on the Asian Tour is definitely getting better these past few years. We just had Asian winners in the last four weeks. Our players are getting stronger and it's good to see.”
Wang’s win was worth US$189,841, which moved him up to second place on the latest Asian Tour’s Order of Merit on US$470,338, some US$166,000 behind leader Marcus Fraser of Australia.
Filipino Miguel Tabuena, who is 21, is third on the Asian Tour rankings with US$336,258 while Lee is fourth, some US$17,000 further behind.
Add in those victories by Lee and Li in China, Asian golf celebrated a small slice of history by notching four straight wins on the European Tour which has never been recorded previously.
Canadian Richard T. Lee, who is regular practice partner of Wang, said: “We have very good players on the Asian Tour. Wang is a very good buddy of mine and it's great to see him win back-to-back on the European Tour.
“He's been competing well. I think he's like another Anirban (Lahiri) who has made it onto the next level. I am happy Wang has done it. I've been playing on the Asian Tour for four years now and I can see the players here can really compete and get the job done.”
The latest Official World Golf Ranking indicates that Wang has now risen to 70th position, with Lee sitting a rung above him.
While Byeonghun An and K.T. Kim are still ahead of Lee and Wang in the race to represent Korea in the Olympic Games in Rio, the latter, who grew up playing junior golf in the Philippines, is hoping to push hard for a berth with qualifying set to conclude on July 11.
“I can’t believe that I’ve won two weeks in a row. I’m so excited right now and really happy that I have won,” said Wang, who will compete in the Irish Open this week.
“Of course I would love to make the Olympics. It’s crazy because I wasn’t even thinking about it until last weekend. It would be an honour to represent my country in Rio but I will have to play very well until then to qualify.”
Although disappointed that he failed to land a third Asian Tour victory in Mauritius, Siddikur’s consolation was that he moved back into the world’s top-300 at 274th position which will enhance his hopes of qualifying for the Olympics.
“I didn’t even think I was going to be able to reach second position. Before we came here, I was really struggling with my golf. I’m really happy to get second position,” said the Bangladeshi history-maker, who has been hampered by a back injury in recent years.
“I am happy with how I finished. This is a good boost for me on my world rankings. Hopefully I can get back into the running for the Olympics. I will take the positives from this week. I am looking forward to the rest of the season and hopefully I can cap a good year.”
ASIAN TOUR ORDER OF MERIT – TOP-20
Pos Player Order of Merit (US$)
1. Marcus FRASER (AUS) 637,261
2. Jeunghun WANG (KOR) 470,338
3. Miguel TABUENA (PHI) 336,258
4. Soomin LEE (KOR) 319,301
5. Scott HEND (AUS) 313,399
6. S.S.P. CHAWRASIA (IND) 310,551
7. Younghan SONG (KOR) 224,772
8. Piya SWANGARUNPORN (THA) 197,985
9. Shaun NORRIS (RSA) 166,368
10. Siddikur RAHMAN (BAN) 153,245
11. K.T. KIM (KOR) 150,500
12. Anirban LAHIRI (IND) 144,178
13. Rahil GANGJEE (IND) 139,984
14. Thanyakon KHRONGPHA (THA)127,239
15. Angelo QUE (PHI) 120,125
16. Masahiro KAWAMURA (JPN) 115,214
17. Adilson DA SILVA (BRA) 112,032
18. Prayad MARKSAENG (THA) 102,135
19. Shiv KAPUR (IND) 99,220
20. Thitiphun CHUAYPRAKONG (THA) 98,535