Kuala Lumpur, February 22: Asian Tour number one Noh Seung-yul hopes to enjoy a prolonged stay at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship starting in Arizona on Wednesday to boost his chances of qualifying for the Masters Tournament.
The 19-year rising star, who became the youngest ever Order of Merit champion last season in Asia, is relishing the opportunity of competing in the elite US$8.5 million event at Ritz-Carlton Golf Club where he faces a stern first round match against world number two Martin Kaymer of Germany.
Countrymen K.J. Choi and Y.E. Yang, both Asian Tour honorary members, and Kim Kyung-tae are also in the 64-man field headed by title holder Ian Poulter of England.
“This is my first time in this event. I am looking forward to it and would like to climb up on the world rankings. The tournament’s prize money is also one of the biggest and has one of a lot of world ranking points. It will be exciting,” said Noh.
“He (Kaymer) is the world’s second best player currently. I don’t think this is going to be an easy game. Hopefully, if I get to win the first match, I believe it will be a little easier after that.”
After priceless experiences of competing in all four rounds at the US Open and PGA Championship last season, Noh said he will not cower when he tees up against Kaymer, last year’s winner of the PGA Championship.
“Through my experiences, I think I am more comfortable playing in the States. The top players were also there last year and I believe the setting and atmosphere will not be different,” said Noh.
Currently ranked 62nd in the world, Noh, who also qualified for the British Open last season, is dreaming of teeing up in the year’s opening Major, the Masters Tournament, at Augusta National in April. The only way to do it is to win a PGA Tour event or break into the world’s top-50 in the week prior to the Masters.
“If you are a professional golfer, you would have grown up dreaming of playing at the Masters. This is one of the majors I haven’t had a chance to play yet. Being able to play at the Masters will be my dream come true.
“That event is so special. I will work really hard to get to the Masters. If I am good enough at these two WGC events (WGC-Cadillac Championship next month), I will able to play the Arnold Palmer Invitational also in March,” said Noh.
The prodigious Korean, who has been tipped by Major winners Greg Norman and Padraig Harrington for greatness, broke onto the Asian Tour scene as a 16-year-old in 2008. After earning his card from Qualifying School, he produced three runner-up finishes and a victory to win the Rookie of the Year title.
Last year, he won the Maybank Malaysian Open, co-sanctioned with the European Tour, and also posted many notable finishes including a tied 28th outing at the PGA Championship.
He also harbours hopes of competing on the PGA Tour and plans to use his appearances in the United States to earn enough money as a non-member for playing rights in 2012.
An eagle-eyed Noh said that corrective laser surgery on his eyes in December has helped him focus better in his game as he seeks success abroad.
“It’s better and I feel comfortable without the soft lenses. I can wear sun glasses easily now and feel better playing in the wind. However, I am still getting accustomed with my new vision,” he said.
Noh’s early season form saw him finish sixth in Bahrain but Noh, ever the perfectionist and rated as one of the hardest working players on Tour, plans to clock more hours on the range to work on a refurbished golf swing.
“There is no perfect satisfaction in every game, I believe. I am trying to improve some of the skills I felt I needed to work on from the Desert Swing. I would like to win in the near future,” said Noh.
Photo - Asian Tour
Asian Tour GolfGreedy.com