Els Blog: Asia Rising

Wed 18 Mar 2015

Els Blog: Asia Rising

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March 18: In his latest blog exclusive to asiantour.com, South African superstar Ernie Els, the Asian Tour’s honorary member and international ambassador, talks about his recent trips to Asia, Anirban Lahiri’s rise in the world ranking and his predication on an Asian Major winner in the near future. 
By Ernie Els
It’s been a while since my last Asian Tour blog and, as you can imagine, there’s a fair bit to catch-up on!
It was wonderful to be able to enjoy a four-week stretch of tournaments in Asia towards the end of last year. Although I didn’t register a victory, I speak for many players in saying that some of these tournaments are among our favourites of the entire year.
That says a lot for this region, the quality of the golf tournaments and the superb courses, the people, and the healthy state of the game.
Ernie Els and Anirban Lahiri Ernie Els and Anirban Lahiri
For me, this particular trip included the BMW Masters, the WGC – HSBC Champions and my first ever appearance in the Hong Kong Open, which also happened to be my first visit here since 1992 when me, Ian Palmer and John Bland teamed up for SA in pre-qualifying for the old Dunhill Cup.
The hospitality here is very special and the team did a great job with the tournament, so it was good to see the Hong Kong Open being announced again as a co-sanctioned event by the European Tour and Asian Tour in 2015, a well-deserved vote of confidence for everyone involved.
We then moved straight on to the Venetian Macau Open, one of the most extraordinary, elegant and atmospheric destinations I have ever visited. Having played with Anirban Lahiri a couple of years ago and been very impressed with his game, it was no surprise to see him win the title in Macau.
He’s really pushed on from there, too, winning the Maybank Malaysian Open and Hero Indian Open in a span of three weeks and rising to 34th in the Official World Golf Ranking in February.
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 WGC events and the Majors.
Talking of Majors, it’s more than five years since Y.E. Yang claimed Asia’s first Major, 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 Sangmoon Bae, Hideki Matsuyama, Ryo Ishikawa and in addition, as I said, Anirban Lahiri is playing some fantastic golf and getting a taste of golf on the world stage.
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.
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.
Happily, none of us has long to wait now for golf’s first Major of the season, The Masters at stunning Augusta National. I almost envy the likes of Anirban and all the others making their debut here, because seeing Augusta for the first time is an experience like nothing else.
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.
Outside of tournament golf I also had the opportunity to enjoy a taste of the best of Asia in a more relaxed environment, most of all at the official opening of The Els Club Teluk Datai in the company of Her Majesty Raja Permaisuri Agong Tuanku Hajjah Haminah, The Queen of Malaysia. It really was a fantastic day and I’m pleased to say that Her Majesty and I won our match 1-up!
When designing this golf course we were blessed with a unique and beautiful natural setting and because of that, and its easy accessibility, it will be a perfect venue for an Asian Tour event.
The first of our Els Clubs, in Dubai, hosted the inaugural Dubai Open on the Asian Tour last December, which the guys there tell me was an outstanding success. That was the fourth golf course in our design portfolio to host a Tour event after The Els Club Copperleaf (Tshwane Open), Anahita Four Seasons Golf Resort (Mauritius Golf Masters) and Wentworth West Course (BMW PGA Championship).
What’s more, Tiger’s tournament, the Hero World Challenge, will be played later this year at another Ernie Els Design project, the stunning Albany in the Bahamas.
Anyway, being an official ambassador of the Asian Tour, it would be a thrill for me if we could bring an Asian Tour event to The Els Club Teluk Datai where I am conscious that discussions are already taking place. Our partners in this project, Destination Resort & Hotels (DRH), are fully engaged in the business of developing golf and bespoke tourism in Malaysia and Asia where an Asian Tour event would naturally be an extension to this initiative. The tour pros would absolutely love what has been re-created in Langkawi and I can’t wait to go back there again and play the course soon.