Noh is one to watch in divided Asia

South Korean teen sensation Noh Seung-Yul is looking to take his game to new levels in 2011 as two rival tours again prepare to lock horns in the battle for supremacy in Asia.

Updated: February 14, 2011 19:16 IST
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South Korean teen sensation Noh Seung-Yul is looking to take his game to new levels in 2011 as two rival tours again prepare to lock horns in the battle for supremacy in Asia.

The 19-year-old last year became the youngest player ever to top the Asian Tour order of merit, winning the European Tour co-sanctioned Malaysian Open in March and following that with a string of top-10 finishes.

On the fledgling OneAsia tour-going head to head with the Asian Tour in an often bitter clash-China's top golfer Liang Wenchong easily won the money race, way ahead of another South Korean, the big-hitting Kim Dae-Hyun.

The region's elite players tee up for the Asian Tour opener in New Delhi this week with the first OneAsia event taking place next month.

"I want to be more consistent with my game," said Noh, who has set his sights on winning on European soil this year and intends to break into the world's top 30. He was 62nd midway through February.

"On some days I'm good but the next day, I'm bad. I need to be consistent for four days regularly. Once I can do that, I can start thinking about winning the big tournaments including the Majors," he said.

Australia's Marcus Fraser, who won the Ballantine's Championship in South Korea in April, was second in the Asian Tour merit standings, while decorated Thai veteran Thongchai Jaidee remains a force to be reckoned with.

"I hope to improve my putting as it is crucial to scoring low," said the three-time order of merit winner. "It was not very steady last year and I have been working very hard lately to get myself prepared."

Players on the Asian Tour will shoot for a projected total prize fund in excess of $45 million, which organisers said would reinforce the tour's standing as the third biggest international tour behind the PGA Tour and European Tour.

Tournament bosses expect to attract plenty of top European talent to Asia as they seek to boost the tour's profile.

Last year, three-time Major winner Padraig Harrington snapped a two-year winless streak when he won the Iskandar Johor Open in Malaysia.

Ian Poulter claimed the Hong Kong Open title while Adam Scott scored an unprecedented third victory at the Singapore Open.

The OneAsia tour, which has brought together tours from China, South Korea and Australia, gets under way on March 24 at the inaugural $1 million Indonesia PGA Championship, near Jakarta.

"This is just our third season and it is a measure of our success that we can quickly attract new sponsors and tournaments," said Sang Y. Chun, chairman and commissioner of OneAsia.

"We have increased our number of tournaments to 13 this season compared with 10 in 2010 and we are very confident that we will announce even more events in this year."

The Asian Tour, looking to prevent players jumping ship to OneAsia, which it has accused of stealing tournaments from the Asian Tour, last year rigorously enforced its regulations.

A group of players were suspended for playing for bigger prizemoney on the OneAsia Tour and then refusing to pay a $5,000 fine.

They claimed restraint of trade, but the Singapore High Court disagreed and ordered them to pay costs.

Few made the jump from the Asian Tour in 2010 but the two tours remain at loggerheads.

Suggesting more battles lie head, Asian Tour chief Kyi Hla Han said last year that the two could not realistically co-exist, vowing to win his battle with his rivals.

"I don't think it is fair for the players to have to choose and when we had our federation meetings at the Masters and the Open, people pretty much understood and acknowledged that there is not room for two tours," he said.

The 2011 Asian Tour, which has a provisional 26 tournaments including a co-sanctioned event between the Asian and European tours in Switzerland, starts with the co-sanctioned 1.8 million euro ($2.4 million) Avantha Masters in India on Thursday.

A third tour in the region comes in the shape of the Mercedes-Benz Tour, launched in 2007, which is aimed at players in Southeast Asia.

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