CAPTAIN YANG PAYS TRIBUTE TO THE ROYAL TROPHY’S IMPACT ON ASIAN GOLF


Asia Captain Y.E.Yang has revealed the Royal Trophy’s massive impact in raising the standards of golf throughout Asia meant he had to leave himself out of the Team for this week’s event.

Asia’s first Major champion was due to appear at the seventh edition of the Royal Trophy as a playing captain after his huge contribution to their sensational triumph last year. Yang rounded off the week by partnering fellow Korean K.T. Kim to victory in the dramatic play–off which resulted from an 8–8 tie, sparking glorious scenes of celebration around the 18th green.

He had also shown his class by holing his approach shot at the opening hole for a spectacular eagle at the start of the second day’s Fourballs, a moment that seemed to energise the entire Asian Team and convince them they were destined to beat their European rivals.

But as Yang went through the list of players who were pushing for places in his Team, he decided there were far too many candidates with irresistible claims to keep a place open for himself.

He explained: “When I was first offered the Royal Trophy captaincy the idea was that I would also play in the competition as well.

“I wanted to play. But I quickly realised that there so many players who were playing better than me that I had to give up my spot on the Team. I could not be greedy about it.

“It was not an easy decision to take, but I suppose the positive side of it is that it underlines that Asian golf is getting stronger and stronger all the time. And the Royal Trophy deserves a huge amount of credit for that.

“The Royal Trophy’s influence can be seen in the way Asian players perform with greater confidence on the world stage, something that is definitely reflected in their results.

“It has given us an added focus as well as exposing out players to white–hot competition against some of the best golfers in the game. That is why the competition should be revered and respected by everyone.

“I would even go so far as to say the Asian victory last year was in some ways just as important as me becoming the first Asian golfer to win a Major title at the 2009 PGA Championship.

“I think both wins were very significant for Asian golf, and in their different ways they were equally important.

“One proved that Asian golfers could stand shoulder to shoulder with the best golfers in the world and win Major championships. For me to go head to head with Tiger Woods in the final round and come out on top sent a very positive to every golfer on our continent.

“And last year’s Royal Trophy victory showed that as a Team, we in Asia could prevail under the most intense pressure. We emerged triumphant when the situation was incredibly tense, and incredibly tight.

“For me, the final round of the 2009 PGA Championship and the play–off involved different kinds of nerves. “In one there was the pressure of standing alone and going up against Tiger Woods and many other great golfers. In the other it was the knowledge that you were playing for your team–mates, and for the whole of Asia.

“That is something you cannot block out. With all my team–mates supporting me there was the added camaraderie you cannot neglect. Instead, you must try to embrace it.

“As well as our eight players, our Captain and Vice–Captain and all the other staff had worked so hard to make it a successful tournament, and for us to win in Brunei was very significant.

“Without a doubt playing in this event, in this fiercely competitive environment, will be a big help when other Asian players find themselves in position to win Majors.

“You will not always be facing Tiger Woods down the stretch. But whoever it is, it is good to know you have gone head to head with world-class players and produced you best golf in those circumstances.

“It seasons, you, and it helps you to hold your nerve, which is the most difficult thing to do in that situation. It is a pre–requisite I think to have tasted that feeling of going one on one with anther great player before you can hope to win bigger and bigger tournaments.

“The Royal Trophy has been invaluable in that respect. You think it is just team play, but on day three you are going to go up against one of the best players in the world in the Singles, and the more you do that, the more you realise you can hold your own in any company.”

Yang soon put aside any personal disappointment at not being a playing member of the Asian Team, recognizing that he has a most vital role to play in orchestrating their bid to retain the Royal Trophy.

He added: “I have a lot of experience of match play, and I felt it would be best to concentrate on trying to use that experience to guide them and to try to help the players repeat the success of last year.

“I thought it would be a good experience for me to move up the ladder and just do the captaincy. I want to bestow some of my knowledge on the younger players in the Team.

“There is also a big difference between stroke and a team match play event. In stoke play you need to play the course and the elements, and you need to be very strategic in how you control your game throughout the whole 18 holes. But in team play there is more of a flow, and once you catch the flow you can ride on it for a long time. I think we saw that with that eagle I recorded at the very start of the Fourballs last year.

“That eagle possibly helped to energise the team. It certainly helped myself and K.T. Kim to take control of our game, and he also holed from the fairway in the same match.

“Those things also help to get the crowd excited, and home support is always a big advantage. So it will be a big help to me, and to the entire Team, if someone produces something special to get the spectators excited early in this next Royal Trophy.”

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