Could Asian Players Dominate Men’s Golf As In The Women’s Game?

After recent successes by male Asian players, could we be seeing the start of a move towards dominance as in women’s professional golf?

Asian golfers
Tom Kim and Sungjae Im
(Image credit: Getty Images)

In this week’s Rolex Women’s Golf Rankings 56 of the top-100 players are from the continent of Asia. By contrast, in the current Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) – the men’s rankings – only seven players in the top-100 come from Asian countries. By those numbers, you would say that Asian male players have a long way to go if they are to emulate their female counterparts and dominate the professional game.

But there are signs that Asian male players are starting to move to the fore in greater numbers. This weekend past, 21-year-old Japanese amateur Taiga Semikawa won the prestigious Japan Open – the first time in the event’s 95-year history that it has been won by an amateur golfer. And this was no flash in the pan – Semikawa has won three professional events in a row. He’d previously claimed victory in the Panasonic Open Golf Championship and Japan Create Challenge in FukuokaRaizan. Semikawa is currently the World’s Number 1 ranked amateur. He follows fellow Japanese players Takumi Kanaya and Keita Nakajima in topping the amateur world ranking.

Semikawa attends the same college that another former Amateur World Number 1, Hideki Matsuyama, went to – Tohoku Fukushi University. Matsuyama’s victory in the 2021 Masters was an inspiring one for Japanese players and for Asian men’s golf in general. Players like K.H. Lee and Sungjae Im of South Korea have tasted victory on the PGA Tour as has their fellow Korean, 20-year-old Tom Kim, who is currently 15th on the OWGR following his recent wins in the Wyndham Championship and the Shriners Children’s Open. Since Matsuyama’s Major breakthrough at Augusta, there have been six wins by Asian players on the PGA Tour.

It’s not exactly as though the floodgates have been opened but it’s a steady flow of success from young Asian players who are inspiring others to follow in their footsteps. Success tends to breed success, particularly in golf where players often push on if they see peers performing at a high level. It’s the, “if they can do it then so can I” mentality.

It's highly likely that more Asian players will start to appear towards the top of the OWGR and will win more significant tournaments, including Majors- The talented amateur mentioned above, Taiga Semikawa, says his ambition is to win all four. He could well do.

Could Asian Men Dominate The Pro Game?

But will Asian players ever dominate the men’s game like they currently do in the women’s? I would guess not. One reason for that is the strength and depth of talent in international men’s golf. 

U.S. college programmes are increasingly the preferred route towards professional success in the men’s game. They provide the perfect training ground, producing rounded golfers with the right physical and mental skills to compete at the highest level. Scouts from those colleges look all over the world for the best players to fill their teams – from South America, to Australia, Europe, Africa and of course Asia. More Asian players will likely start taking the college route and progressing quickly to high level pro golf. But they’ll be doing so at the same time as young men from all over the world. 

Looking at the current top-100 in the OWGR, there are no fewer than 24 countries represented. Players from all corners of the globe are now pushing to play and win at the very highest level making it tough for any one nation or region to muscle its way in.

Another reason for that is the continued strength of the USA. 47 of the top-100 on the current OWGR are from the States. In the men’s game the USA is a golfing powerhouse that is, and has always been, nigh on impossible to dislodge as the dominant force. Of the last 50 Major championships contested, 27 have been won by players from the USA. 

Europe has had some success over the last four decades in stealing a little of the limelight from the USA but really, they’ve only stolen a little. It’s a tough ask to shift the Americans from the top of the pile and with the Europeans, the South Africans and Australians all pushing hard to do it, the challenge for Asian players is significant. Will they win more big events? Yes, for sure. Will they dominate the game on the men’s side? Not in the foreseeable future.

Fergus Bisset
Contributing Editor

Fergus is Golf Monthly's resident expert on the history of the game and has written extensively on that subject. He is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and his passion for the sport was bolstered during his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and the history section of "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin , also of Golf Monthly. 

Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?