Asia’s first major winner Y. E. Yang is honored to be an inspiration to other golfers from the continent but his first priority is to get back in the winners’ circle, starting at next week’s Singapore Open. The Asia-Pacific leg of the global golfing calendar is underway with most of the world’s best players heading to the region for this week’s US$7 million WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai and the US$6 million Singapore Open and Australian Open the following week. It was his victory at the HSBC Champions in 2006 that first gave South Korean Yang international profile before he wrote himself into the annals of golf with his breakthrough win at the PGA Championship at Hazeltine three years later. While no other Asian player has yet been able to follow the trail he blazed in winning one of the game’s four major prizes, Yang believes standards in Asia are rising and a second winner will come within a decade. “I really don’t see myself as a role model or inspiration to others. I don’t have a grandiose view of myself so I hope I don’t get too obnoxious with my success,” the 41-year-old said. “But at the same time, if I have inspired anyone, it will be my privilege and honor of doing so. I just hope that the bar for golfing in Asia has been raised internally “And if my small win in Hazeltine has anything to do with kids and parents lifting up golf bags instead of cleats or high tops, then I am so much more satisfied with my career. “And hopefully those inspired generations can win a major again soon. As for a bolder prediction of another Asian winning a major soon, well, I see someone doing it in the next 5-7 years.” Although he tied for third at this year’s U.S. Open, Yang has not tasted victory since clinching his second Korea Open title last year. He played some brilliant golf at the Singapore Open to make the cut last year, birdying the last three holes of his second round to stay in the tournament for the weekend. “Oh! was it sweet or not?” he said. “It was without a doubt the most clutch display of golf I had exhibited in my golf career through a three-hole stretch.
“So this year? I want that clutch-ness to be there for 72 holes, when I gun for the top spot in one of Asia’s majors.”
American Phil Mickelson, Briton Graeme McDowell, Ireland’s Padraig Harrington and South Africans Retief Goosen and Ernie Els are among the other golfers who will be fighting it out for the title at Sentosa next week.