What a fine way to start 2017 and the 1st two events of the Asian Tour season showing a vast spectrum in age in terms of success.
As a commentator and big watcher of the golf all around the world, you can’t help but notice the domination of the youngsters right now. On the LPGA Tour last season the average age of the tournament winners was 22. Justin Thomas dominated the start of the year on the PGA Tour and Jon Rahm, another at the age of just 22 has surprised no one by becoming a winner in America already. In Qatar, Jeunghun Wang has just become the 3rd youngest player to win 3 times on the European Tour in what has become an incredible 12 months for the 21 year old Korean. I remember playing in a pro am with Jeunghun and he told me he felt the weakest part of his game was his putting and how at the Asian Tour season ender in Dubai in 2014, he got so nervous that he threw away a one shot lead down the last with a double bogey. Well, his putting looks all right to me and he seems to have calmed those nerves!
But it’s not just about the youngsters. Sometimes a wise old head can emerge as Prayad Marksaeng managed in Singapore eight days before his 51st birthday. And in a field that included Sergio Garcia and Adam Scott. It’s funny but so dominant was Prayad on the Japanese senior tour last year, there were apparently some players who couldn’t believe he was 50. Watch him swing and he does look in his thirties I suppose. The veteran Thai may have had some assistance from others who fell away when they reached the top on the final day but what a lovely summer in the UK he’s gone and booked himself – first at the Open and then the Senior British Open.
As charming and deserved as Prayad’s victory is, there is something about watching young talent emerge for the first time. I was lucky enough to be at Sergio Garcia’s first European Tour win in Ireland. You know you are watching a guy who will win more than once. And while many of you probably didn’t know much about Jeunghun Wang a year ago, there are plenty more players from all around the world ready to take to the stage too. From Thailand, there’s Phachara Khongwatmai. It may be a name you struggle to say to start with but you might need to practise. He’s only 17 and has broken many records already. No one (not even Lydia Ko) has won a pro event younger than him. My co-commentator Dom Boulet reckons he’s a potential major champion and I couldn’t disagree. He was 2nd to Prayad in Singapore and heading for a 2nd Open Championship already. The world is at his feet. How about 20 year old Rikuya Hoshino from Japan and 18 year old Sungjae Im from Korea. I must admit I didn’t know very much about them 2 weeks ago but from what I saw the last fortnight, they could make a mark too. The list is pretty endless.
On Sunday in Myanmar, it was a young Australian Todd Sinnott who showed the power game we are all becoming very familiar with as he rocketed through the field (he stood 40th after 2 days) to pick up his 1st professional title in just his 2nd Asian tour start. He won by three shots even after finding water seven times during the week! It’s a life changer for Todd who back home in Australia was regarded as a top amateur who many expected big things of when he turned pro in 2015. He just needed a platform and after winning his Asian Tour card at Q School just two weeks earlier, shooting a final round 62 before losing a play off to 3 time European Tour winner Richard Green… he got his chance. And how he’s taken it, he has opened may doors. He can now play on the all the big events on the Asian Tour, as well as on the Japan Tour. And it wouldn’t surprise me to see him win again in 2017.
No event this week for me. Feet up in front of the tv watching a certain Tiger Woods from Dubai. Now, if Roger and Rafa can do it at the Australian Open….