Singapore: South African Ernie Els believes Asia will deliver a second Major champion in the near future, naming Bae Sang-moon, Hideki Matsuyama and Anirban Lahiri as potential candidates.
Els, a four-time Major winner, has been particularly impressed with Lahiri’s recent rise in the Official World Golf Ranking following two victories in February which propelled the Indian to the top of the Asian Tour’s Order of Merit and 35th position in the world.
Els, whose company Ernie Els Design, is a Full Business Member of the Asian Golf Industry Federation, said: “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).
“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.
“It’s more than five years since YE Yang claimed Asia’s first Major (in 2009) but my view is it won’t be that long again before someone from the Asian Tour wins another.
“There are so many good Asian players already winning on the PGA Tour – guys like Bae Sang-moon, Hideki Matsuyama, Ryo Ishikawa and as I said, Anirban is playing some fantastic golf and getting a taste of golf on the world stage.”
Els believes with maturity and experience, the young Asians will become stronger in their desire to attain Major glory. He also advised the youngsters 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,” said Els, who is an Honorary Member and International Ambassador for the Asian Tour.
“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 the South African, who is still seeking a first Green Jacket.
“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.”
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