A record five Asian players will be part of the international line-up that will attempt to upset the United States in the Presidents Cup starting on Thursday.
Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama, the 2021 Masters champion, joins a record four South Koreans – Im Sung-jae, Kim Joo-hyung, Lee Kyoung-hoon and Kim Si-woo – on the international team at Quail Hollow.
While the larger-than-usual Asian contingent owes something to the sheer number of players who are unavailable due to signing with LIV golf, Internationals captain Trevor Immelman believes it also highlights the rise of Asian golf.
“It’s a nod and a testament to the work that countries have done at the grassroots level,” Immelman said. “It’s exciting for me to see the explosion. It’s working.”
Immelman has been able to mix players from very different cultures and bring them together as a team.
“You do it in a very simple way: spend more time together,” Immelman said. “They start to learn to love each other and once that happens, it’s easy.”
Kim Joo-Hyung, who won his first PGA title last month in nearby Greensboro, has enjoyed being among the eight rookies on this year’s team.
“I can’t put it into words. Everybody is excited,” he said.
He sees this week as a potential milestone for Asian golf, especially if his squad can pull off a shock win over a US team featuring 11 of the world’s top 18 ranked players.
“It’s great for Asian golf,” he said. “It could inspire a lot of people in Asia to be here.”
South Korea’s Yang Yong-eun was seen as a long shot when he faced Tiger Woods in the final round of the 2009 PGA Championship at Hazeltine, but Yang inflicted the first major loss on Woods when the superstar led after 54 holes, becoming the first in Asia. big male winner
Could the South Koreans lead another wonder?
“I feel like we’ll have a really good chance on Sunday,” Kim Joo-hyung said.
Two-time PGA Tour winner Im said this is the best time for golf in South Korea.
“There are four players here. I feel like it’s as strong as it has been,” Im said.
“A lot of Korean players are hungry to come to the United States, so the mentality and the hunger factor, I think it’s stronger than ever and that’s why Koreans in general have been stronger than ever.”
Both Immelman and Scott have enjoyed watching the newcomers, especially 20-year-old Kim Joo-hyung, as they experience awe and anxiety.
“It’s fun for me to ride that roller coaster with them,” Immelman said.
Scott, a 10th-time Cup starter looking for his first victory, isn’t planning any pep talk.
“I don’t feel like I should stand there and turn these kids on,” he said. “You want to run with the emotion while it’s naturally there.”