New era of golf
Record five Asians at Presidents Cup sign of sport’s growth
Published: Sep 21, 2022 08:21 PM
A general view of a practice round prior to the 2022 Presidents Cup at Quail Hollow Country Club in Charlotte, North Carolina, the US on September 20, 2022 Photo: AFP

A general view of a practice round prior to the 2022 Presidents Cup at Quail Hollow Country Club in Charlotte, North Carolina, the US on September 20, 2022 Photo: AFP

A record five Asian players will be part of the Internationals lineup attempting to pull off an upset over the US at the Presidents Cup starting on Thursday.

Japan's Hideki Matsuyama, the 2021 Masters champion, is joined by a record four South Koreans - Im Sung-jae, Kim Joo-hyung, Lee Kyoung-hoon and Kim Si-woo - in the Internationals team at Quail Hollow.

While the larger than usual Asian contingent owes something to the slew 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 countries have done at the grass-roots level," Immelman said. "It's exciting for me to see the explosion. It's working."

Immelman has been able to blend players from vastly different cultures and unite them 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 in August at nearby Greensboro, has enjoyed being among eight rookies on 2022's squad.

"Can't put it into words. Everyone is just fired up," he said.

He sees this week as a potential milestone moment for Asian golf, especially if his squad could pull off a shocking upset of a US team with 11 of the world's 18 top-ranked players.

"It's great for Asian golf," he said. "It could inspire a lot of people back in Asia for us to be here."

South Korea's Yang Yong-eun was seen as a longshot when he was matched against Tiger Woods in the final round at the 2009 PGA Championship at Hazeltine, but Yang inflicted the first major defeat upon Woods when the superstar led after 54 holes, becoming Asia's first male major winner.

Could South Koreans lead another stunner?

"I feel come Sunday we'll have a really good chance," Kim Joo-hyung said.

Im, twice a PGA Tour winner, said this is the strongest time for South Korean golf.

"There's four players here. I feel like it's about as strong as it has been," Im said.

"A lot of Korean players are hungry to come over to the United States so the mentality and the hunger factor, I think it's strong as ever and that's why the 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 wonder and anxiety.

"It's fun for me to ride that roller coaster with them," Immelman said.

Scott, a 10th-time Cup starter seeking his first victory, isn't planning any pep talks.

"I don't feel like I need to stand there and fire these kids up," he said. "You want to run with the excitement while it's naturally there."

The US boasts 12 of the world's top 25 golfers, including top-ranked Masters champion Scottie Scheffler, for the team showdown that begins Thursday at Quail Hollow.

The Internationals, who counter with five of the world's top 30, lost half a squad with defections to the LIV Golf Series, including British Open winner Cameron Smith, the world number three from Australia.

They have eight rookies and a sense of nothing to lose, but it would be an epic shocker for them to defeat one of the best American lineups ever assembled.

"That's on paper. The games aren't played on paper," US captain Davis Love said. "We have a higher-ranked team, but I know a bunch of those young guys on their team and they're going to come in with a chip on their shoulder and together."

Internationals captain Trevor Immelman is counting on both.

"They will be ready come Thursday because they've got something to prove," Immelman said. "This is the stage to find out if you've got what it takes or not.

"There's a magical amount of respect for the US team. We can see if we can match up with their skills. We can see how good we are."

"The exciting part for us is it does free us up... have a blast and let 'er rip."

The Americans own an 11-1-1 edge in the all-time rivalry, taking the past eight from the global squad. Their only loss came at Melbourne in 1998.

"It has stung," said 10th-time starter Adam Scott said of the drought. "It has been frustrating. A lot."