NOH DETERMINED TO PEAK AT OMEGA EUROPEAN MASTERS
Crans Montana, Switzerland, August 31: Reigning Asian Tour number one Noh Seung-yul of Korea hopes to put his Major experience to good use at the Omega European Masters starting Thursday.
Noh, an Omega ambassador, finished in fourth place at the Crans-sur-Sierre Golf Club last year, a pivotal result which helped him become the youngest ever player to win the Asian Tour Order of Merit.
He will return to the €2,000,000 (approx. US$2,600,000) showpiece packed with more confidence after enjoying solid results at the British Open and US Open where he placed in tied 30th respectively.
“You learn to adapt to the different playing conditions and learn to cope with pressure because there are so many people watching the Majors. Obviously, there are a lot of strong players too and you will strive to do better,” said Noh.
“When you play in Majors, you learn to play the different course conditions and that helps build you as a golfer and makes you improve on your game,” he added.
Noh will be paired with US Open champion Rory McIlroy and defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez of Spain in the first two rounds, in what would be an exciting showdown between the young guns and veteran.
McIlroy, who finished second at the Omega European Masters in 2008 was delighted to be paired with Noh.
“The first time I played with him (Noh) was in 2008 in Singapore and I was very impressed with him then. He is a very good and solid player. Obviously he is still very young but with experience of playing around the world, he will become one of the best players in the world,” said McIlroy, currently sixth in the world.
World number two Lee Westwood, who has won two titles in Asia this year, is eyeing to emulate his victory at the Crans-sur-Sierre in 1997.
“I think European Masters title is one that everyone wants. Everyone wants to be the king of the mountain at some point in his career. I was lucky enough to be it more than ten years ago now and the course has been getting better over those years,” said Westwood.
An injury free Jeev Milkha Singh of India, a two-time Asian Tour Order of Merit winner, will be on the hunt to end a three-year title drought at the Omega European Masters.
Singh was plagued by a back injury last year but believes he is on track to rediscovering his superb form which earned him the Order of Merit crowns in 2006 and 2008.
“I’m pretty happy with my game. I’ve worked hard on it and I don’t have any more injuries. I’m working on the right stuff and that’s the main goal for me – to stay fit,” said Singh.
The Asian Tour honorary member harbours hopes of breaking into the world’s top-50, a feat he achieved early in 2010 but knows he needs to return to the winners’ circle to achieve his goal.
“I’m on track to my goal of breaking into the world’s top-50 again but I feel I need to win two or three times a year to do that. I feel my game is good enough to be in the top-50 of the world but I need to take things slowly.
“I’ll try and finish in the top-100 by this year and hopefully I can be in the top-50 by July next year. The main thing is to have a win by the end of the year. That would certainly help with my goal and my confidence,” said Singh, currently outside the top-200 in the world.
Thongchai Jaidee, a three-time Asian Tour Order of Merit champion, will spearhead a strong cast of Thai players at the Crans-sur-Sierre.
He will be joined by Thaworn Wiratchant, Chapchai Nirat, Pariya Junhasavasdikul, Udorn Duangdecha and Chinnarat Phadungsil and Thailand’s rising star Namchok Tantipokhakul.
“Many Thai players are now playing on the Asian Tour and they have gained a lot of experience. There’s a bright future for Thai golf and you can see their talent this week,” said Thongchai, who will be paired with world number two Lee Westwood and Alexander Noren in the first two rounds.
“My ultimate hope is to see more young golfers breaking through the ranks and many of them are tasting success on the Asian Tour which is good for the game of golf,” he added.
Thongchai suffered a back injury in February and had to change his swing to avoid suffering the same injury which landed him in hospital for nine days.
“My game is not 100% now after my back injury (in February). I had to change my swing to ensure I don’t hurt my back again. I used to curve my back more but after my injury, I needed to change it to make it straighter. I’m slowly adapting to this new swing and it is getting better,” said the 13-time Asian Tour champion.
The Omega European Masters is the first event in Europe to be co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour and European Tour in 2009.
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