Korean legend YE Yang, Asia’s first and so far only male Major winner, will make his tournament debut at next week’s US$2.5 million Commercial Bank Qatar Masters.
Yang, who held off Tiger Woods to win the 2009 US PGA Championship, will be part of a strong Asian contingent at Doha Golf Club that also includes six-time European Tour winner Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand and young compatriot Kiradech Aphibarnrat.
Defending champion Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose – three of the world’s top six – are among the tournament favourites.
Yang, who turns 43 on Thursday, and Rose, the 2013 US Open winner, are among several Major winners in the field, including Ernie Els (2002 and 2012 Open Championship; 1994 and 1997 US Open), Darren Clarke (2011 Open Championship), Charl Schwartzel (2011 Masters Tournament) and Paul Lawrie (1999 Open Championship), a two-time winner in Doha.
In November 2006, Yang won his first European Tour title at the HSBC Champions in China and in March 2009 became only the second Korean to win on the US PGA Tour when he claimed the Honda Classic. After his Major breakthrough at the PGA Championship in August 2009, he won his third European Tour title at the Volvo China Open in April 2010.
“I’m very honoured to be playing in the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters for the first time and hope I can play well on my debut,” said Yang, who won four Japan Tour titles from 2004 to 2006, the year he also won the Korea Open.
“I’ve heard the Doha Golf Club is a very good course and that there are many top players competing this year, which is a tribute to the tournament. I’ve played in many countries across the world, but this will be my first time in Qatar, so I’m really looking forward to visiting and enjoying some new experiences.”
Thongchai is coming off one of his finest seasons, spending much of last year in the world’s top 40 after winning his sixth European Tour title at June’s Nordea Masters in Sweden, where he beat Victor Dubuisson and Stephen Gallacher in a playoff.
Last month, Thongchai started his 2015 European Tour season with a joint-seventh place finish at the Nedbank Golf Challenge in South Africa and the 45-year-old Thai hopes to continue that form in Doha, where he will be competing for the 13th time in his career.
“I had a really good season and I’m hoping to continue playing consistently in 2015. I had good results in Thailand and South Africa last month, so now I’m looking forward to playing well at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters,” said Thongchai, who posted ninth-place finishes in Doha in 2007 and 2013.
“I always like playing in Qatar because it’s a long but fair course, the facilities are good and the weather is nice. It’s a fun tournament and I hope to get another top-10 finish.”
Kiradech, 25, will make his Commercial Bank Qatar Masters debut boosted by a fifth-place finish at the Nedbank Golf Challenge. After injury problems last year, the big-hitting Thai is rediscovering his form of 2013, when he earned his first European Tour title at the Maybank Malaysian Open and won the Asian Tour Order of Merit.
Hassan Al Nuaimi, President of the Qatar Golf Association, said Yang’s debut and the increasingly strong challenge from Asia were further attractions for spectators.
“We are delighted that YE Yang will compete in the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters for the first time in his great career, during which he became a hero in Korea and Asia by winning the 2009 PGA Championship,” Al Nuaimi said.
“YE is one of many Major winners in the field this year and it is fantastic that we will have so many famous champions in this year’s field.”
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