Kohler: Japanese sensation Ryo Ishikawa had been widely expected to lead the Asian charge at this week’s US PGA Championship but he was upstaged by fellow teenager Noh Seung-yul in the weather-delayed opening round.
While Ishikawa battled to a four-over-par 76 on the tough links-style layout at Whistling Straits, South Korean Noh signed for a 68 on Friday to lie just one stroke off the lead.
“I am so happy,” the 19-year-old told reporters after returning to the course on Friday to complete the first round and covering his last five holes in three under.
“I have come here as an invite and I want to play as well as I can. It is a top-class event ... a very big event for me.”
Noh won the biggest title of his career at the Malaysian Open in March, a one-shot victory which secured him Tour cards in Japan, Asia and Europe.
He held off his experienced compatriot KJ Choi with a magical final-hole birdie, floating a chip shot from behind a hospitality marquee to within four feet, to become the youngest professional to win a European Tour event.
“That has given me a lot of confidence,” Noh, a double champion on the Asian Tour, said. “I want to follow KJ Choi and I have done well this season.”
Choi has triumphed seven times on the PGA Tour and, along with Yang Yong-eun who won last year’s US PGA Championship after overhauling Tiger Woods, has been an inspiration to the younger generation of Korean golfers.
“I have had a lot of good finishes this year and that gives me confidence to do well here,” added Noh, who started hitting golf balls when aged just seven on the beach near his home. “But this is a very tough course.”