2/1/2017 8:32:06 AM

Giant leap

Giant leap

BEFORE nailing the most important birdie of his fledgling career, Wang Jeung-Hun took a deep breath to calm down his nerves. He then slowly rolled the ball to the big applause of the crowd. Phew! 

The sigh of relief on the face of the young South Korean, who became the first Asian to win the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters, was quite palpable. His friends splashed a bottle of water all over him. And as the tournament, celebrated its landmark 20th edition a new star was born.

The 21-year-old, who was making his debut in the European Tour event, won a thrilling play-off when he edged South Africa’s Jaco Van Zyl and Sweden’s Joakim Lagergren for his third title. 

“I just wanted to try to make birdie at the last. I didn’t think about anything else,” said Wang as he became the first golfer to win the Qatar Masters on debut since Ernie Els accomplished the feat in 2005. 

There are many other firsts to his credit, including being the first Asian to win a European Tour title in the Middle East and the youngest to lift the Mother of Pearl trophy.

As he became the third-youngest player after Matteo Manassero and Seve Ballesteros to win three European Tour titles, Wang is excited at the prospect of playing in the final leg of the Desert Swing on Thursday in Dubai, where he is set to meet his idol Tiger Woods.

“Oh, yes, I really want to play with Tiger. He was my idol when I was young. I’m going to be so happy if I play alongside him in Dubai,” Wang said, after collecting the winner’s cheque from Qatar Golf Association President Hassan Al Naimi and Commercial Bank CEO Joseph Abraham.

Wang had made his European Tour breakthrough in May by claiming back-to-back wins at the Trophee Hassan II in Morocco and AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open, just two months after sharing second place at the Hero Indian Open in March.

But the win at the windy Doha Golf Club last week surely is more important. Playing in just his 29th official European Tour event, Wang is the second quickest to win three tournaments, behind  Woods, who took only 12 events to do it.

“I’m so happy and excited. This is the biggest tournament I’ve won. I was really nervous on the back nine. I missed a lot of greens, but my chipping was really good and it was the key to my win,” said a beaming Wang, who enjoyed strong support especially from a group of flag-waving Koreans. 

“I got a lot of support from my fans. They really gave me a lot of power to win.

“I really didn’t expect to win this week. I learned from the other players about the course. I just kept trying to make birdies, to save par and finally won. This feels really fantastic for me,” added Wang, who was the youngest competitor in golf at the Rio Olympics last August.

Wang, who became the 17th different winner to lift the Mother of Pearl Trophy, has bigger goals in his mind as he could earn a potential invite to the Masters Tournament.

“Playing in the Masters, that’s my dream. When I was young, I really wanted to play the Masters. Maybe now I’ve a chance to play in it,” he conluded. 

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