SINGAPORE (Reuters) - World no. 2 Lee Westwood believes Asian teenagers Ryo Ishikawa and Noh Seung-yul are capable of becoming the continent’s first golfers to top the world rankings.
Ishikawa, ranked 45th in the world, is a frequent winner on the Japan Golf Tour but has struggled in the United States, while Noh, ranked 67th, enjoyed a breakout year in 2010 winning the Asian Tour money list and the European Tour co-sanctioned Malaysian Open.
“I think Asia has a very a good chance. I mean, you have the likes of Noh Seung-yul and Ryo Ishikawa and other young players,” Westwood said Friday of the continent’s world no.1 prospects.
“The people in Asia will be watching these young people and if they don’t get to be world number one, then hopefully some of these young kids watching these players will do so one day.”
Westwood, 37, who ended Tiger Woods’ lengthy spell as world no.1, will line up against Japan’s Ishikawa at the U.S. Masters next week for the first major or the year but South Korean Noh has yet to earn a place or receive an invite.
Westwood, whose 17-week reign as no.1 was ended by Germany’s Martin Kaymer in February, will then compete in the Asian Tour’s Indonesian Masters.
The Englishman has won over 30 titles around the world and is the hot favorite to lift the Indonesian title and the $118,875 winner’s cheque at the Royale Jakarta Golf Club.
“I am sure I will face tough competition. I mean the Indonesian players and the Asian Tour players are not going to be easy to play against. It’s not easy to come and play in different places so I have to be in top form.”
“I think everything has improved (in Asia). The golf courses have improved, the standard of Asian players has improved and overall everything is better. Now there are Asian players contending against the rest of the world.” (Writing by Patrick Johnston; Editing by Peter Rutherford)