Els Blog: Strong Asian Tour presence at #USOpen

Mon 15 Jun 2015

Els Blog: Strong Asian Tour presence at #USOpen

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By Ernie Els
June 15: Having just finished at the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village, the countdown is underway for another of my favourite weeks of the year, the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay. It will be my 23rd appearance in this historic championship, but it still generates a sense of excitement and anticipation.
My two U.S. Open wins were quite a few years ago, in 1994 and 1997, but I’ve been in the mix a few times in recent years and it’s one of those tournaments that I always feel like I have a great chance to win again.
Looking at the starting line-up it’s wonderful to see a pretty healthy Asian Tour presence. Thongchai Jaidee and Anirban Lahiri were, of course, automatic entries by virtue of their top-60 positions in the Official World Golf Ranking. They’ve both played some super golf recently.
For five other Asian Tour members, it wasn’t so straightforward. They had to battle their way through tough sectional qualifiers. China’s Liang Wen-chong, Masahiro Kawamura of Japan and Korea’s Seukhyun Baek did so at the Kinojo Golf Club while India’s Shiv Kapur and Marcus Fraser of Australia secured their slots through qualifying at Walton Heath. Congratulations to all of them.
The scores in qualifying – Liang shot a pair of 65s, for example – goes to show the quality of golf that you have to play in order just to get into the second major championship of the year.
[pullquote align="left or right"]Looking at the starting line-up it’s wonderful to see a pretty healthy Asian Tour presence. - Ernie Els[/pullquote]Once you’re in, though, who knows what might happen. Look at Michael Campbell in 2005. He made it through qualifying by the skin of his teeth, holing an 8-foot putt for birdie on the final green at Walton Heath. He promptly booked his flight to Pinehurst and went and won the tournament. U.S. Open champion!
No one can ever take that away from you. And to think Michael nearly didn’t play the sectional qualifier; his wife talked him into it!
So what can we expect next week at Chambers Bay? Well, it’s a relatively new golf course and therefore is an unknown quantity for most of the players, but it looks like a very interesting layout and has some wonderful views.
On reflection I think playing the Irish Open at Royal County Down was a great tune-up for this U.S. Open, which isn’t something you say often, but Chambers Bay is very much a links-style test of golf, with fescue grasses, wide fairways and huge undulating greens.
Some of the players who have made scouting trips have reported back that it is indeed more like an Open Championship venue than a U.S. Open venue, which is good news for anyone who loves of links golf.
[pullquote align="left or right"]It was good to see the Asian Tour visiting new destinations in Mauritius and Bangladesh in recent weeks, which you would have to say, is yet another indication of how this Tour is growing. - Els[/pullquote]Always the Majors are about getting your head in the right place before you tee off on Thursday. That’s where extensive U.S. Open and all-round major championship experience really benefits.
The practice rounds here are probably going to have greater value than at some of the other more conventional U.S. Open layouts and definitely much more so than at repeat venues.
Moving away from the Majors there’s obviously plenty more great golf going on around the world. It was good to see the Asian Tour visiting new destinations in Mauritius and Bangladesh in recent weeks, which you would have to say, is yet another indication of how this Tour is growing.
My good buddy George Coetzee won one of these events, the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open, and he and a lot of the guys had very positive things to say about this first ever tri-sanctioned event by the Asian, European and Sunshine Tours.
George played the Asian Tour in 2009, as a young tour professional learning his trade, so it must have been a thrill for him to go back there as a proven Tour winner and then get another win under his belt.
Anyway, three Tours joining forces for one tournament is a significant milestone for professional golf and one that can only benefit everyone, not least the players. It’s a wonderful platform not just for the more established players such as George but also for young tour pros wanting to make their mark on the international stage. Hats off to everyone involved.
As well as praising the tournament, the players clearly loved Mauritius, which I can relate to. It really is a stunning island, a place that everyone at Ernie Els Design has great fondness for, as it was the location for one of our early design projects, a spectacular ocean front layout called Anahita. Site visits there were no great hardship, I can tell you!
Ends