Give Asians a chance, says struggling Ismail
Kuala Lumpur: Asian golfers desperately need more opportunities to play at the top tournaments if they are to become world-beaters, Malaysia`s Rashid Ismail said Tuesday.
Ismail, one of only two Malaysians at this week`s CIMB Classic in Kuala Lumpur, said talent was going to waste with promising players not getting the chance to move to the next level.
"Obviously we should have more slots for Asians, especially Malaysians, because we put so much money into this event yet we don`t have enough opportunities for local talent to participate," said Ismail, 33.
"So I hope next year we get something better than this."
Ismail exemplifies the struggles of a journeyman pro in Asia, where a boom in the number of top quality courses and tournaments has outstripped the development of players.
The mustachioed Malaysian, ranked at 1,532 in the world, last teed off in such exalted company at the 2000 World Cup, where Tiger Woods and David Duval were representing the United States.
Ismail, who has since played only sporadically outside of Malaysia, called the event in Buenos Aires the best experience of his life.
"This is the second best moment in my life," he said, ahead of the $7 million CIMB Classic at the well-manicured Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club.
"For us Malaysians, this is very, very rare," Ismail added. "We don`t have enough players who go abroad and qualify to play these events. Maybe we will do in another four or five years` time."
Ismail earned his spot at the CIMB Classic when he was the surprise winner of a qualifying tournament, and he will struggle through the pain of a swollen hip tendon this week.
Only 10 places in the 78-man field are reserved for Asian Tour players, with another two for Malaysians. It`s a similar story at the other leading events in the region.
This week, at the European Tour`s $7 million BMW Masters in Shanghai -- not co-sanctioned by either of Asia`s golf tours -- 12 Chinese players will lead regional hopes in a full field packed with international stars.
And in next week`s WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai, the $8.5 million blockbuster touted as `Asia`s major`, only six places are reserved for Asian Tour players, and another six for Chinese.
Ismail said it was crucial for Asians to play alongside the world`s best. Not counting two players from established power Japan, only three Asians are inside the current top 100.
"First, we can see our idols. There`s a lot of idols here this week," Ismail said, urging corporate sponsors to pay for Malaysians to try their luck abroad.
"This is the chance to look closely at how they play, how they practise, how they behave themselves on the golf course, how they think, how they control their nerves and how they react to the public galleries and spectators."
He added: "It`s not just playing golf, we need to encounter all these situations to become a true champion."
India`s Gaganjeet Bhullar, who entered the CIMB Classic through his top 10 place on the Asian Tour`s order of merit, agreed that such experiences were vital.
"It really boosts our confidence and it really teaches us how to play and how to move on to the next level," he said.
The tournament, featuring Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els, has one of the strongest fields seen in Southeast Asia.
Bo Van Pelt, winner and runner-up over the last two years, said he had not considered the number of spots for Asian players.
"I hadn`t really thought about it, to be honest. Obviously that`s a decision for CIMB and the (PGA) tour... that`s their call, not mine," said the American.