Thu, Jun 14, 2007 - Page 20 News List

Young guns go for it in first half of Asian Tour season


Asia's young guns, led by Chinese star Liang Wenchong, have shown their talent can go as far as their driving abilities after a sparkling first half of the Asian Tour season.

Liang is among a gifted group of first-time winners in their twenties to emerge, joining the likes of Malaysia's Airil Rizman, big-hitting Thai Chapchai Nirat and Korean trio Lee Sung, Kim Kyung-tae and Bae Sang-moon.

Such has been Liang's form that he is leading the Order of Merit after winning the Singapore Masters and claiming six other top-10s. He has set his sights on becoming the first Chinese to win the merit title.

"I will play more on the Asian Tour this season, possibly nine more events, and aim to finish the year as number one. I think it'll be quite special if I can achieve it as no Chinese player has done it before," said Liang, who will restrict his stints in Europe and Japan.

This season Liang has already played his way into the history books by becoming the first Chinese to surpass US$ 1 million in career winnings on the tour, edging mentor and close friend Zhang Lianwei to the landmark.

After 16 tournaments the tenacious Liang ranks first in stroke average (70.30), is the lowest under par at 66-under -- 45 shots better than second-ranked Scott Strange -- and has fired the most birdies with 184.

He also showed a heart of gold by donating all his Singapore Masters winnings for the development of golf in China.

While the youth brigade has made a forceful move on the Asian Tour, a couple of veterans into their 40s have also produced vintage performances.

Evergreen Filipino Frankie Minoza, a multiple winner in Japan, enjoyed a popular home triumph at the Philippine Open, months after undergoing laser eye surgery and watching old videos of his previous wins.

Taiwan's Lu Wen-teh secured a career third win at the Macau Open after a thrilling play-off triumph over Richard Moir of Australia.

"It's been an exciting first six months. I am convinced that the addition of seven first-time winners is a clear reflection that the playing standard is on the rise in Asia," said tour executive chairman Kyi Hla Han.

The Tour now enters its traditional summer break and will resume in August, with another 13 events scheduled to be played till December.

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