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Asia's first Major winner Y.E. Yang admits he hasn't been at his best this year, but the 40-year-old Korean hopes back-to-back tournaments on OneAsia beginning this week will help rebuild his confidence. Yang, winner of the 2009 PGA Championship when he sensationally made up a two-stroke deficit in the final round to pip playing partner Tiger Woods by three shots, is one of the star attractions at the U.S. $1 million Nanshan China Masters starting Thursday at the Nanshan International Golf Club in China's eastern Shandong province.
OneAsia has proved a happy hunting ground for the self-taught golfer from Jeju Island since the tour's formation in 2009. He won the both the Volvo China Open and Kolon Korea Open in 2010, and followed that up with two top-10 finishes last year.
But the world number 96, who now lives in Texas and plays primarily on the U.S. PGA Tour, has only one top-25 to boast of this year -- and he is determined to end 2012 on a high.
"This year I haven't felt that good," Yang said. "I don't know what is wrong, but I lost a bit of my confidence."
Along with countryman K.J. Choi, Yang has laid the foundations for Korea to become a virtual factory of world-class golfers -- both men and women -- but he knows just how fickle the game can be.
"Golf is always up and down, up and down, but a month ago I felt it was coming back," Yang said.
"Hopefully this week I will try to get my confidence back. Here at the Nanshan China Masters and next week at the Kolon Korea Open, and then the BMW Masters in Shanghai ... let's hope it gets better."
Yang played nine holes of the Nanshan club's championship Danling Course on Tuesday, and a full round in the pro-am on Wednesday, and said he liked what he saw.
"I think the course isn't too difficult, but if there is some wind it could be a problem," he said. "But there are good players here and I don't think it is ever easy."
Chief among Yang's challengers is South African Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open Championship winner and runner-up at this year's U.S. Masters, who is making his debut in a OneAsia event.
Both players have been on a whirlwind of visits hosted by the Nanshan Group, the giant multi-billion dollar conglomerate that has its imprimatur on virtually every enterprise in this scenic model town that boasts 18 golf courses and is home to the China Golf Association's new state-of-the-art National Training Centre.
Leading the Chinese challenge at Nanshan is Liang Wenchong, the 2010 OneAsia Order of Merit winner who is coming back to form having finished runner-up on the Japan Tour two weeks ago after ditching his broom-handle putter.
Liang, a three-time winner on OneAsia, is joined by fellow Order of Merit winners Scott Strange (2009) and Andre Stolz (2011), both from Australia, and both having years they would probably rather forget.
Strange has been plagued by a nasal bug that messes with his sinuses and makes it difficult for him to even finish a round, but he feels he is on the mend and is relishing the challenge.
"Any of us can win," he said. "It is just a question of who is up for it this week."
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