x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

YE Yang standard-bearer for Asia's golfers at US PGA Tour

Asia are well overdue a victory on golf's US PGA tour.

YE Yang, from South Korea, during the final round of the Honda Classic golf tournament in Palm Beach Gardens.
YE Yang, from South Korea, during the final round of the Honda Classic golf tournament in Palm Beach Gardens.

Few golf followers would have begrudged Rory Sabbatini his sixth US PGA Tour title last weekend as the South African continues to rebuild his life and career after a skin cancer scare.

His victory denied YE Yang the title despite a brilliant final round of 66 that was almost enough to overturn Sabbatini's five-stroke lead on the final afternoon in Palm Beach, Florida.

Yang is the standard bearer for Asia, at least on the men's side of the fence.

The popular Korean is overdue for a third main tour victory after earning his second in the 2009 US PGA Championship when he outplayed Tiger Woods in a thrilling duel.

In fact, Asia generally is well overdue another title on foreign fields. Only once last year did an Asian golfer lift a trophy on American soil - India's Arjun Atwal capturing the Wyndham championship - and representatives from that region fared little better on the more global European Tour.

Since the start of last season 56 tournaments have been staged under the European banner and only three have produced Asian winners, none of which were achieved outside Asia.

Last month's triumph for India's SSP Chowraisia in the Avantha Masters in New Delhi is devalued by the absence of leading players from that event as the world's elite were preparing for the far more prestigious Accenture match play in Arizona - a 64-man showpiece in which Yang again flew the Asian flag by reaching the quarter-finals.

Five of the other six Asian qualifiers - the experienced Korean KJ Choi was the exception - fell at the first hurdle of the WGC event won by England's Luke Donald.

The time has come for Asian men to put down a more solid marker on behalf of their fanatical followers.

Maybe they should take a leaf out of the book of their female counterparts in pursuit of that objective.

While Yang is the only Asian male in the top 30 of the world rankings at No 29, the corresponding women's list has an unmistakable air of Asian dominance about it.

Led by Taipei's Yani Tseng on the strength of her recent victory in Thailand, that chart features the Korean duo of Jayai Shin and Na Yeon Choi at two and three and 16 of the top 30 places occupied by Asian women.

This year's LPGA Tour programme is in its infancy but an indication of how the balance of world power has shifted away from the United States is provided by last year's honours board.

While it is the exception rather than the rule for an Asian male to win on either of the main tours, the opposite applies in the women's game with over half of the 26 LPGA tournaments producing Asian winners. Asia's men are well advised to find the success formula of their female counterparts and copy it, quickly, otherwise the excellent platform created by Yang on the day he outgunned Woods in one of the majors will go down as a one-time aberration.

Woods was at the top of his game when Yang got the better of him that day at Hazeltine, Minnesota.

After his first-round Accenture defeat, Woods reappears today on one of his favourite battlegrounds, Doral.

He hopes to re-establish himself in what is the second WGC tournament of the season - the CadillacChampionship, which is the second of the four-leg Florida swing.

Victory for Woods could see him climb back to No 2 in the world rankings.

Another disappointing finish would open the door for either or both of Rory McIlroy and Paul Casey to climb above him and give Europe a hold on the top six world ranking positions.

Martin Kaymer is also at Doral for the first time since taking the top spot from Lee Westwood, who can reclaim the honour with a victory on Sunday.