In golf, they say timing is everything and golf’s glory hunters from Asia have been in perfect synch and harmony in making the quantum leap from the Korn Ferry Tour to the ultra-competitive and rewarding US PGA Tour.
With five tournaments remaining in the regular season which rewards the top-25 players with PGA Tour cards and another 25 available at the Korn Ferry Tour Finals which comprises of three events, China’s Carl Yuan and South Korean duo An Byeong-hun and newcomer Kim Seong-hyeong have safely secured their dream cards.
The talented trio must now be gleefully rubbing their hands in anticipation of next season’s PGA Tour following Commissioner Jay Monahan’s announcement of “substantial changes” last week which will see eight tournaments enjoying greatly enhanced purses, revised field sizes for the FedExCup play-offs, and a reimagined fall schedule that will feature up to three no-cut, limited-field international events.
If there wasn’t already enough motivation for other Asian hopefuls still in the chase for their pot of gold and more importantly, the opportunity to etch their names into golf’s history pages, the time is now ripe for the likes of China’s Marty Dou and highly-rated Kevin Yu of Chinese Taipei to press on in their bids to secure their cards, with Dou and Yu hovering around the top-25.
As it stands, the established Asian stars have continued to blaze a new trail, with Japanese hero Hideki Matsuyama winning twice already this season to equal K.J. Choi’s record of eight PGA Tour victories by an Asian golfer, and Korea’s Im Sung-jae and Lee Kyoung-hoon each winning once to raise their career tally to two wins.
And there was also India’s Anirban Lahiri’s an eye-catching runner-up finish at The Players Championship in March to pocket a handsome US$2.18 million (S$3 million), his biggest career pay cheque yet.
Kim Si-woo, a three-time Tour winner, and Pan Cheng-tsung of Chinese Taipei have also performed well to virtually seal their places in the FedExCup play-offs this August, which no Asian has yet to hold aloft the ultimate prize on Tour.
In broad strokes, next year’s FedExCup play-offs will feature revised field sizes.
The top 70 will make the first event of the play-offs, the FedEx St Jude Championship at TPC Southwind in Memphis.
The top 50 will qualify for the BMW Championship, and the top 30, as usual, will compete for the FedExCup at the Tour Championship at East Lake.
The rewards awaiting those who perform at the highest level against the best fields in the game are staggering, with massive purse increases being announced for 2023.
The season-long FedExCup prize pot currently offers US$75 million in bonus pool, with US$18 million alone going to the winner.
While there will be more money than ever to shoot for, Rory McIlroy, a 21-time PGA Tour winner, was spot on by saying the PGA Tour is very much about playing for “legacy” as well as decades-old tournaments that make up the annual Tour schedule comprise of legendary names such as Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watsons and of course, Tiger Woods, as champions in many of those events.
“It’s very important to me. It means a lot, going back to history and tradition and putting your name on trophies that have the legends of the game on them,” said McIlroy, a four-time Major winner.
The likes of Yuan, An and Kim Seong-hyeong will have the same opportunity to chase golf history, as well the millions of dollars on offer.