Asian Tour strongman Anthony Kang is pushing himself to produce a stellar showing at the Maybank Championship next week.
A return to the Saujana Golf and Country Club for the US$3 million showpiece sanctioned by the Asian Tour and European Tour brings back happy memories as the 44-year-old produced his career’s biggest triumph at the venue in 2009.
“Winning the tournament (Malaysian Open) was actually a bit of a shock,” confessed the Korean-American, who is a three-time Asian Tour winner.
“I was playing pretty well leading up into the event, I had good control of the golf ball and my confidence was up. But the week prior, I actually missed the cut in an event in Thailand and I went over to Malaysia and just focused on my putting as I didn’t putt so well in the previous week.
“In the last three rounds, I was pretty much bogeyless except for the 15th hole on the final day. Anytime you play without a bogey, you’re always going to climb up the leaderboard.”
These days, Kang has scaled down his playing schedule on the Asian Tour, mixing up his time with on-course television commentary work for Asian Tour Media, which he has found fulfilling as well.
His encounter with TV commentary work began soon after he missed the cut at the Indonesian Open in 2014 and since then, he has been seen holding a microphone in hand on the golf course just as often as he is seen swinging his golf clubs.
“It just kind of happened. I remember missing the cut in Indonesia and the TV guys were looking for an on-course commentator. I initially hesitated but did it eventually and enjoyed it very much,” said Kang.
“Because of my ranking on the career money list, I will get into a handful of Asian Tour tournaments. If the chance arises and there’s room on the commentary side, I’ll definitely choose that now. It’s more fun talking about golf than actually playing the game! You never miss a shot in the box.”
Kang is determined though to put up a good showing at the Maybank Championship next week, which will be headlined by reigning Masters Tournament winner Danny Willet, former Major winner Charl Schwartzel, Anirban Lahiri and title holder Marcus Fraser.
“I don’t want to go out there to play poorly. I need the preparation. I will be selective and get myself ready. If there’s a tournament to play, and if there’s time to practice, then I’ll go and play in it,” said Kang.
“Although I’ve won at Saujana, I’ve never played well there historically. I really can’t say that’s a venue that I like. But when I won there, I was hitting it good and when you’re hitting it good, any course you go to should fit your eyes as you can place it at the spot you’re looking at.”
Kang revealed his experience in Europe following his 2009 success opened his eyes.
“I thought it was going to be my springboard in pro golf, thought I would basically get to the top of the world, play on the European Tour for a bit and get onto the PGA Tour … the world was my oyster,” he said.
“When I went to Europe, I realised my game wasn’t good enough. My ball striking wasn’t consistent enough and I struggled there. I did my best to compete but it never came to fruition. I came back to Asia thinking that I could get back to Europe but mentally I was pretty damaged.
“I hit so many shots that went 50 yards left or right. Month after month, it just left a bad scar in my brain. Every time I stepped onto a tee box, I was just thinking of the big miss. Confidence was really low and I was just trying to search for something in my swing which I never found it. It was just a downward spiral and it became no fun playing golf as I was hitting it into places where you shouldn’t be in pro golf.”