I was walking to the clubhouse at Bay Hill on Wednesday when I spotted a tall chap walking alongside Chubby Chandler, agent to many top players including Ernie Els; the gentleman bore a striking resemblance to Anton Haig, winner of the Johnnie Walker Classic. Later in the day I saw him again standing behind Ernie Els on the range and it turned out indeed to be the young South African. Haig is part of Chandlers stable and thanks to his win at the Johnnie Walker, the 20-year-old qualified for the WGC-CA Championship at Doral this week. Chubby thought it might be a good idea for Haig to get some practice in Florida the week before and set it up for him to stay with Ernie at Lake Nona, with Els acting as a sort-of mentor; although Ernie might not want to give too many tricks away and risk being beaten by him this week! Haig is tipped to be a real star of the future and both Els and Retief Goosen were singing his praises when I spoke to them on Sunday. Despite the age gap between Haig and Els it seems they get on well away from the course. Els told me that Haig knows how to have fun in his spare time; although Im sure come Thursday itll be down to business at Doral. Haig is making his first appearance in the States and the trip has whet his appetite for more golf Stateside. He informed me in our chat on Wednesday that he has aspirations of playing a large part of his schedule on the PGA TOUR in future.
Edfors Follows Suit:
It seems Johan Edfors would also like to play more golf in the US. The Swede, who won three times in Europe last year having come through the qualifying school the year before, is planning to play 10 events on the PGA TOUR this season. He told me that he aims to get his card through those 10 starts and then split his time between Europe and the U.S., similar to Henrik Stenson, whos building a home at Lake Nona and will play in the Tavistock Cup next week. Edfors finished tied for 28th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational but will not receive FedExCup points because he is not a member of the TOUR. Johan will now play at Doral then head to Augusta for the MastersTournament.
We should have know it when Yong-Eun Yang surprised the world and Tiger Woods with his victory at the HSBC Champions Tournament to start the season on the European Tour that this is becoming the year for players from Far East Asia. Chapchai Nirat became the third winner from the region last week with a dominating performance at the TCL Classic, a win in which he seemed to show no fear; he didnt falter, becoming the third wire-to-wire winner on tour this season. Despite his relative anonymity outside of the region, Nirat has been touted as a future star in Asia. He had an impressive rookie season on their tour in 2005, finishing second at the Taiwan Open; following that with a 21st finish on the Order of Merit in 2006 with five top-10s. Nirat comes from a good golfing family; his father is one of Thailands top amateur golfers and the younger Nirat has been playing since the age of four.
Tom Abbott will the host GOLF CHANNEL's live coverage of the Safeway International beginning at 9pm GMT on Thursday on Sky Digital Channel 423
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