Els Blog: Asia is truly rising

Thu 17 Sep 2015

Els Blog: Asia is truly rising

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September 17: Asian Tour Honorary Member and International Ambassador Ernie Els is excited about the recent developments taking place in Asian golf. Read more from his latest blog exclusively for www.asiantour.com 
By Ernie Els
Probably the most significant golfing news in recent weeks is the announcement of the joint vision between the Asian and European Tours, which sees the business element and the membership portfolios of both Tours combine. So that’s where we’ll begin.
Many of the details are still to emerge, but one thing is already clear. As with all the best partnerships in business, the two organisations are made stronger by working together and aligning many of their shared professional and commercial interests.
Ernie Els and Anirban Lahiri Ernie Els and Anirban Lahiri
This in turn will be good news for the players - in particular the younger generation - and for the sponsors, partners and everyone else involved in running and hosting tournaments. It’s also great news for the development of the game and no doubt it will help deliver further sustained growth in the region. Ultimately everyone benefits, including the fans who get to see more of the top players in action across Asia.
Having been a regular visitor to this wonderfully diverse continent for over 20 years, it’s been amazing to see the growth of the game and the Tour since the first co-sanctioned event with the European Tour in 1999 (top marks if you correctly recall that it was the Malaysian Open in Kuala Lumpur!).
There have been almost 100 such co-sanctioned events since then, which have provided playing opportunities for members of both Tours. I’ve played in a lot of these events myself - too many to remember, if I’m honest - and been blessed to win in Asia a few times, too. It’s been said before, but I have a great fondness for this part of the world, which is why it was an honour to accept the role of Honorary Member and International Ambassador of the Asian Tour in 2013.
[pullquote align="right"]The two organisations are made stronger by working together and aligning many of their shared professional and commercial interests. - Ernie Els [/pullquote]In that capacity it would be hard not to mention the Presidents Cup, which next month visits Asia for the first time in Korea. It’s going to be a huge week for the golf fans there, seeing 24 of the world’s best golfers playing hard and in the true spirit of the game of golf.
Obviously it’s good to see an Asian Tour presence on the International Team, with five Asian born players on the 12-man side; that in itself is a landmark moment. Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama is making his second appearance, while Anirban Lahiri, Thongchai Jaidee, Danny Lee and Sangmoon Bae are all making their Presidents Cup debuts.
Ernie Els & Thongchai Jaidee Ernie Els & Thongchai Jaidee
Anirban has had a really strong year, including a fifth place at the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, and there’s no question he’s got the game to compete with the best. His prodigious hitting will be an asset in the matchplay format, especially fourballs where you can adopt a slightly more aggressive strategy.
Thongchai is another rookie, which seems a strange thing to say given how much experience he has on the world stage. He’s about the same age as me, so we’ll call him a rookie-veteran! He’s a real fighter and matchplay should also suit his game nicely.
Two-time PGA TOUR winner Sangmoon has the double-thrill of making his debut and it being on home turf. It’s also on a course where he’s won before. It’s a wonderful opportunity for him, especially after the tough time he’s had as regards his upcoming military service, which I myself was required to do as a young man growing up in South Africa.
This year’s Presidents Cup is an experience he’ll embrace and I’m sure the Korean fans and media will, too. It’s fantastic for them that they have a ‘home’ player to cheer on. Of course, Danny Lee was born in Korea, so no doubt there’ll be some enthusiastic support for him. As a player you have to find a way to feed off that kind of support from the fans. In matchplay golf, every little bit helps!
[pullquote align="left or right"]There’s no question he’s got the game to compete with the best. - Els on Lahiri. [/pullquote]Anyway, for me it’s been a quiet month having missed out on the FedEx Cup playoffs. It feels strange not playing tournament golf at this time of year, but it’s been fun spending a bit more time with the family.
It’s also given me the opportunity to work on some fitness and swing goals, which you cannot really do during long stretches of tournament play. It’s all about trying to have a strong finish to 2015 because there is still a lot of golf left to play, including a trip to the Venetian Macao Open for the third straight year.
When I first visited in 2013 I remember thinking I’m definitely coming back here! It’s an amazing place and the hospitality was wonderful. It’s exciting to be going back and I’m sure it’ll be a great week - and all in all a great month - for the Asian Tour.