Yang Yong Eun is hoping Hong Kong’s feel-good factor can inspire a return to the form that saw him make history as Asia’s first Major winner.
The Korean star – one of the main drawcards at this week’s UBS Hong Kong Open – is looking to get back to the performance level that brought about his historic PGA Championship triumph three months ago.
“It’s been quite a while since I’ve been back in Hong Kong and as always, it’s a magnificent city,” said Yang.
“It’s good to be back in the cosmopolitan world. I’ve been suffering a dip in form since my win at the PGA Championship so hopefully this week I can play well and win. That would be really nice.
“This is my ninth event since that win and I’ve been travelling almost around the world. It’s been a very tough schedule. I’m enjoying it but it’s taking a toll, so hopefully I can tolerate and work through it.
“I’ve got three events left this year including this one and if I can get a win or at least a top 10 in any of these then I’ll be really happy.
“Maybe I should take it one step at a time as it seems like everything is so rushed. I’ve got to sit back a bit and pace myself.”
Yang stunned the golf world last August by becoming Asia’s first Major winner when he fended off the challenge of world No.1 Tiger Woods to clinch the PGA Championship.
In doing so, Yang denied Woods his 15th Major success and dented the American’s previously perfect record of turning 14 third round Major leads into wins.
Yang won in style, first overturning Woods’ two shot lead and then eagling the par-four 14th hole to move in front before holding his nerve down the stretch.
The momentous victory catapulted Yang into the world spotlight and means he will be watched far more closely than on his only previous appearance in Hong Kong, when he finished almost halfway down the field in 2002.
“I still see a lot of familiar faces from the last time I was here but the field itself has grown a bit and there are more marquee players around me, but that’s because the tournament has become much bigger,” he said.
“The toughest part is probably the greens as it’s a bit tricky to read the lies.”
Yang is among an array of stars at the US$2.5 million UBS Hong Kong Open, which tees off tomorrow (Thursday) at the Hong Kong Golf Club in Fanling.
Other elite players on show include world No.4 Lee Westwood and former British Open champions Mark O’Meara and Ben Curtis.
Returning to Fanling are defending champion Lin Wen Tang and the man he beat in last year’s unforgettable playoff duel, world No.17 Rory McIlroy.
The UBS Hong Kong Open – Hong Kong’s oldest professional sporting event, having started in 1959 – is once again co-sanctioned by the European and Asian Tours.
Yang was recently given honorary membership of the Asian Tour and he hopes it will inspire other players to try to match his achievements.
“It’s a great honour,” he said. “It’s been quite a while since I played on the Asian Tour and now that I’m recognised as an honorary member, it feels really good and I’m very thankful for the hospitality and treatment that I’ve been given.
“On a golf level, hopefully that honorary membership will inspire a lot of younger players to work harder as ultimately it’ll bring success and reap more benefits.”
The PGA Championship triumph gave Yang – who received a congratulatory phone call from South Korean President Lee Myung Bak – a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour and the Majors.
It was his second success of the year on US soil. In March he shot a two-under-par 68 to win the Honda Classic by one stroke over John Rollins for his first PGA Tour victory.
Yang first came to prominence in 2006 when he held off an elite field, including the impressive chasing pack of Major winners Michael Campbell, Retief Goosen and Woods, to win the Champions event in Shanghai.
It was his third victory of the year following earlier successes in Asia and Japan.
He was voted Korean PGA Tour Rookie of the Year in 1997 and, prior to winning in Shanghai, had plied his trade on the Japan Golf Tour, winning four times from 2004.