Korean teen Noh warrants attention at Open
Sunday, January 30, 2011
ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – Ryo Ishikawa may be all the rage at the 150th anniversary Open Championship. But there’s another Asian teenager who is increasingly attracting glances for the quality of his golf.
At 19, Korean Noh Seung-yul already has achieved one notable feat that has so far proved beyond Japan’s Ishikawa – winning a European Tour title.
Ryo and Noh made the cut at last month’s U.S. Open and have been drawn alongside former Open Championship winners this week at the ancestral home of golf.
While 18-year-old Ishikawa lines up with American Tom Watson and Irishman Padraig Harrington in the first two rounds at St. Andrews, Noh will tee it up with John Daly, who triumphed over the Old Course in 1995.
Although it’s Ishikawa, with a huge Japanese media presence following his every move, who will be in the spotlight, many believe that Noh may actually be the better long-term prospect.
He is far too modest to suggest such a thing, but the unfussy way in which he goes about his business suggests that his temperament is every bit as good as his technique.
Another positive for Noh this week: The calming influence of his father Noh Gu-huieun by his side as caddie.
“It’s good to have my father on my bag and this week, my mum and sister are also here,” said Noh, who tops the Asian Tour’s Order of Merit. “This is the first time they’ve traveled overseas to watch me play. We’ll have fun.”
A two-time winner on the Asian Tour, Noh says he’s keen to make a strong impact on the international stage. And where better than St. Andrews to further his reputation?
“I’m aiming for a top-20 finish this week, or maybe better,” said Noh, acknowledging that he would not have come this far in his career without the support of his father.
“When I take a shot, I have somebody to discuss it with,” Noh said. “Psychologically, it is very comforting. It lets me play a better shot. When you are on tour, you are alone most of the time but I am always with my father.”
Noh, who enjoyed a practice round with Y.E. Yang on Monday, tapped his countryman for thoughts about winning a major.
“Yang told me that we have to aim for wins in regular events and treat the majors as another regular event,” Noh said. “He was emphasizing the need to be comfortable wherever we compete, and it made sense to me.”
Noh’s rise to prominence, at least in Asia, has been mercurial. As a 7-year-old, he started hitting golf balls at a beach near his home. Eleven years later, he burst onto the Asian Tour scene in 2008, when he won the Midea China Classic and was named rookie of the year.
In March, he recorded an impressive win in the co-sanctioned Maybank Malaysian Open by holding off boyhood idol and countryman K.J. Choi in the final round, thanks to a closing birdie.
Noh had his father on his bag in both victories.
“My relationship with my father is no different from other kids,” he said. “It is impossible not to have any disagreements, but we try to minimize it as much as we can. We are good for each other.”
The victory in Malaysia shot his confidence to a new level, but Noh knows that only hard work and dedication will pave the way to greater success internationally.
With Yang setting a high standard with his triumph in the U.S. PGA Championship and Choi achieving stardom with seven victories on the U.S. PGA Tour, Noh does not need to look far for inspiration.
“They (Choi and Yang) started playing on tour at a much later age than I did,” Noh said. “But they have already achieved so much. So I feel certain that I can emulate them.”