Had the nerveless Sunday procession in Surrey been carried out by a better-known name than An Byeong-hun, it would inevitably be hailed as one of the finest golf performances of this or many other seasons.
Which renders it only fair to hand the 23-year-old from Seoul due credit for his latest success, which arrived in record breaking style at the BMW PGA Championship.
Those asking “who?” would be doing An a disservice. He announced his arrival on the scene in 2009, when becoming the youngest winner in history of the US Amateur Championship. On Monday confirmation should arrive that An has catapulted himself into the world’s top 50, a scenario which carries huge benefits.
An’s triumph, during which he appeared completely unflappable, arrived on his debut at Wentworth and during his maiden season as a European Tour player. His 21-under-par aggregate is a tournament record, a score reached courtesy of a flawless 65 onSunday. An won by six from Miguel Ángel Jiménez and Thongchai Jaidee, collecting more than €800,000 (£569,000) in the process.
Last year An earned €150,000 on the Challenge Tour. This time around, he will compete in the US Open and the Open Championship.
“This is life-changing for me,” the South Korean said. “I never thought I would win this event. I love that I am the first Asian to win this event. It’s great. It wasn’t easy. I was really nervous the whole day, trying to take it shot by shot and not even look at a leaderboard. I have looked at the names on the trophy, some great names. I guess putting mine alongside them is a great achievement.”
And then the low-key part. “I really don’t celebrate, to be honest. After the other events I won, I didn’t do anything special, just had a nice dinner with my family. That’s about it. I’m not really a party guy.”
An had offered hints of what may lie ahead at the start of this year. He was 12th, fifth and 13th when competing in Abu Dhabi, Qatar and Dubai. Last month he shared eighth in the Volvo China Open.
Although the European Tour’s flagship event was a lesser place for the 36-hole exit of Rory McIlroy, the organisers can point to a further and high-profile endorsement of the Challenge Tour as a valid platform for development. More so, perhaps, when a non-European such as An proves the point.
An was not alone in having cause for final-day joy. Chris Wood’s ace at the 14th earned him a brand new BMW i8. Incredibly, it was the fifth hole-in-one of this year’s tournament.
“Like all the players, we sort of look at the 14th on Tuesday when we have a practice round and we think: ‘Wouldn’t it be nice, a BMW i8,’” Wood said. “You never think that it’s going to happen to you. I hit a great shot, seven-iron, and it was a bit of a delayed reaction because you hear two cheers, one sounded like it just missed and the second one that it went in.”
Marc Warren, who tied 18th, and Shane Lowry, who shared sixth, will have the luxury of missing 36-hole US Open qualifying at Walton Heath after cementing positions in the world’s top 60.
“I’m now in the last three majors of the season for the first time so that’s good,” Warren said. “You have got to be in these events if you’re wanting to be in a Ryder Cup. It’s one thing being in them but you need to perform in them. The Ryder Cup is not a given. It’s the best 12 players in Europe and it has to be earned.”
Lowry heads to the Irish Open at Royal County Down with a simple goal. “It’s my home tournament so I really want to win,” he said.
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