Honours for Harrington, Liang and Asian women while Van De Velde sets new target

It has been a momentous past few days for Asian golf in a variety of ways. There were celebrations for the continent’s new number one, China’s Liang Wen-chong, while Asia’s women were on a high after victory over the Rest of the World in the Lexus Cup.

Meanwhile, Frenchman Jean Van De Velde, who came within a ill-fated driver of winning the 1999 British Open, said he was trying to qualify for next year’s Asian Tour.

And to cap it all off, Asian Tour officials say they have made peace with the European Tour over next year’s controversial Indian Masters.

First, Liang. The 29-year-old finished the season with a total of $532,590 in winnings to beat Thailand’s Chapchai Nirat by more than $90,000.

He became the first Chinese golfer to end up as Asian number one and his effort has earned him a place in the line-up for next year’s British Open.

At the Asian Tour’s year-ending awards in Bangkok, Thailand, Liang also won the Lowest Stroke Average title with 70.41 and the Players’ Player of the Year Award.

He replaces India’s Jeev Milkha Singh as the Asian number one.

There were also awards given out in Europe with Ireland’s Padraig Harrington winning the 2007 European Tour Golfer of the Year title, thanks largely to his victory at the British Open in Carnoustie.

It was Harrington’s first award, beating out stiff competition from Argentina’s US Open winner Angel Cabrera and England’s Justin Rose, who finished top of the European Order of Merit standings.

In Perth, Australia, Asia’s women withstood a strong fightback by the international team to win the Lexus Cup 15-9 at the Vines Resort and Country Club.

The Asian team were led by South Korea’s Pak Se-ri, who was pitted against Swede Annika Sorenstam.

After the first two days, Asia were always looking like they would win the tournament having taken a 9 ½ to 2 ½ lead from the fourballs. On the first day, Asia stormed to a 6-0 lead in the foursomes.

However, the internationals fought back and won most of the singles match-ups on the last day but the Asian’s held firm to hold on the title they won last year in Singapore.

Back to the men’s side of things, and Van de Velde could be the new high-profile name on next year’s Asian Tour.

The 40-year-old is this week taking part in the Asian Tour’s final stage qualifying school in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia with high hopes of winning his card.

Van de Velde now makes his home in Hong Kong and told the Asian Tour website:

“My life is taking me to Asia as my wife and my two year old baby are now based in Hong Kong. The Asian Tour is where I want to play and I would like to focus my game in this region.

“The Asian Tour is going to keep growing and become stronger every year. In the past five years, we have seen the prize money increase, the quality of the game improve and the interest rise and I would really love to be part of this exciting growth here.”

Van de Velde memorably suffered a meltdown at the 1999 British Open, having teed up at the final hole in Carnoustie with a three-stroke lead.

However, he used a driver instead of playing safe and after a series of comical shots, blew his lead and ended up in a play-off. The title was eventually won by Scotland’s Paul Lawrie.

More good news for Asia, and it looks like the controversy over the $2.5 million Indian Masters, to be held next year, has been settled.

The Asians were unhappy because the European Tour had organised the tournament unilaterally and were accused of golfing “colonialism”.

However, tour officials now say that relations are back on track and that the event is likely to enjoy joint sanction from both oorganisations.

The parties held talks during the recent golf World Cup in China and reports indicate it is all systems go for the Indian tournament.

However, a similar problem over an event in Korea has yet to be resolved, though there was no indication as to whether the two sides have addressed the issue.

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