GUANGZHOU, China ― Korean star Kim Hyung-sung joins two other South Korean golf stars to make the strongest Asian Team yet going into the seventh edition of the Royal Trophy at the Dragon Lake Golf Club in Guangzhou, China, on Dec. 20-22.
His selection is a reward for a strong performance this year. He grabbed his second victory on the Japan Golf Tour and posted three runner-up finishes, resulting with second place on the Order of Merit. If it had not been for Hideko Matsuyama, who has become the first rookie to win the Japan Tour Order of Merit, the year-end ranking of Asia’s premier and richest professional tour, Kim may well have finished at the top of the pile.
This time, at Dragon Lake, he and Matsuyama will play side-by-side against the Europeans.
In China, Kim can count on support from two compatriots: The man who clinched a place in Royal Trophy lore by securing Asia’s playoff victory in 2012, Kim Kyung-tae; and South Korea’s most famous golfer, Yang Yong-eun.
Asia’s captain Yang Yong-eun (File photo)
Kim Hyung-sung greeted his selection by vowing to defeat the European challengers.
“We will beat them in Guangzhou, punish them at Dragon Lake Golf Club, and not allow them to come close to the Royal Trophy,” he said.
“The Europeans can look at the Royal Trophy from a distance ― but they will not get their hands on it. This is our pride of being Asian and our determination to play for our people. The Europeans better be ready to go home without the trophy.”
He added that team captain Yang Yong-eun has brought together a magnificent group of players to represent Asia at this edition of the Royal Trophy.
“I know that the Europeans will be ready and hungry for revenge from last year ― but they will not win,” he said.
Yang, who became the first Asian player to win a major title by overcoming Tiger Woods in the 2009 USPGA Championship, will captain the continent for the first time in Guangzhou and it will be a big surprise if he does not send out the two Kims together.
In addition to Matsuyama, the team will also be joined at Asia’s premier and traditional team golf championship by two more Japanese superstars Ryo Ishikawa and 2012 Japan Tour Order of Merit winner Hiroyuki Fujita.
And the formidable Asian Team lineup also features in-form Thailand aces Thongchai Jaidee and Kiradech Aphibarnrat, plus China’s top golfer, Liang Wen-chong.
The Asian captain would have found it difficult to ignore Kim on current form. He has built on his victory at the PGA Championship Nissin Cupnoodles Cup by reeling off a string of impressive performances. In fact, he has not finished lower than seventh in his last six tournaments, with two second places and a third included in that sequence. So he should certainly play his part as Asia bids to complete back-to-back victories for the first time.
By Philip Iglauer, Korea Herald correspondent