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Golf | Asia

A Siddikur © Gallo Images

Asians 'must work harder to win majors'



Asian golfers must work harder if they want to win another major, two of the region's leading players said on Tuesday, after the US Masters highlighted a gulf in class.

Three years after South Korea's Y.E. Yang claimed Asia's only major title at the 2009 PGA Championship, only three players from the continent survived the cut last week at Augusta.

Despite a golf boom in Asia which has brought some of the world's richest events and multiplied the number of courses, regional players are yet to shine consistently against American and European stars.

Bangladesh's Siddikur and Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand, in Kuala Lumpur for this week's Malaysian Open, both said the reason was simple: Asian players need to train harder and show more dedication.

"It's true there's too much gap between there (the West) and here because I don't think we Asian players work enough," Siddikur said.

"So we need to do a lot of things and we need to work harder. More training, more focus, more serious, more dedicated. We don't do enough of any of those. That's the difference between Asia and there."

Siddikur, Bangladesh's only Asian Tour winner, travelled to Florida to seek out American expertise in the off-season after previously working only with Asian coaches.

"I had improved but not that much, so I was just trying to do something else. I just wanted to see the difference between Asian and American coaches. It's an experiment but it's helped a lot," he said.

Thailand's Kiradech, 22, also said Asia's younger generation players had realised they needed to shape up if they want to challenge for the sport's biggest titles.

"I think so," said Kiradech, when asked if Asian players had been guilty of not working hard enough.

"But the new generation is getting better. We have a goal. I think Asian players can win a major event so that's why they're training very hard, working on their swings or with their coaches, much harder than before."

Kiradech has slimmed down his solid physique after working out four times a week alongside Prom "Big Dolphin" Meesawat, another well-built young Thai.

"I started going to the gym one or two years ago. Before I didn't do any running, jogging or working out. I started last year so my body was getting more firm and stronger. It's made a lot of difference," he said.

But India's Digvijay Singh, 40, who claimed his maiden Asian Tour win after 12 years of trying this month, said Asia has simply not yet had the time or the resources to produce great champions.

"Professional golf in Asia is not as old as it is in the Western world. Barring Japan and Korea, Asian golf is not more than 35 to 40 years old. If you look at the West, it's hundreds of years old," said Singh.

"There are not many public courses in Asia," he added. "In India we have one, in Delhi, so somebody should talk sense into the Indian government's mind to open up more courses.

"They want you to do well, but they don't want to extend any kind of support. Whereas if you go to America, courses are a dime a dozen everywhere you go."

Singh also said it was not true players didn't work hard in Asia, whose challenging heat and high humidity will be exemplified this week at Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club.

"Looking at the kind of conditions we have in Asia, I would want to see how many Europeans can come and slog their asses out in these kind of conditions," he said.

"Thailand has produced some great players, have you seen the kind of conditions these guys practice in? If you hit balls for half an hour you're absolutely sapped, you need to change your T-shirt."

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