South Korean prospect Noh Seung-yul is concerned his climb up the world golf rankings will be stalled by a period of compulsory national service in the Korean army.
Twelve months ago, the 20-year-old Noh was ranked a lowly 242nd in the world but since he won the co-sanctioned Malaysian Open in March 2010, he has continued a rapid rise up to number 64 on the latest list.
Noh's triumph in Malaysia was also pivotal in helping the former Korean Amateur (2005) and Korean Junior champion (2005) to become the youngest-ever Asian Tour number one as well as ending the season 34th on the European Order of Merit.
His victory, at 19, made him the youngest ever winner on the European Tour until 17-year-old Italian Matteo Manassero lowered the mark later in the year at the Castellon Masters but Noh did gain entry into three of the season's four major with the triumph.
However, Noh told Reuters at Riffa in Bahrain, where he is contesting the inaugural Volvo Golf Champions, he had a major concern this coming May of trying to avoid a 20-month period of conscription.
"I turn 21 years in May, but for the time being I can avoid going into the army because I have enrolled at university," he said.
"I will study at university for the next five years and up to the 2016 Olympic Games when golf is an Olympic sport.
"If I am on the Korean Golf Team and we finish top-three in the Olympic Games, then I would only have to do four weeks army service," he added.
"Everybody in Korea has to do national service in the army, so if I don't win either a gold, silver or bronze medal in 2016, then I have to do 20 months service.
"I want to continue living in Korea, so I guess there is no way of avoiding service in the army."
Fellow Korean Y. E. Yang, who captured the 2009 U.S. PGA Championship in defeating Tiger Woods at Hazeltine, undertook two-years compulsory military service when he turned 21 in 1993.
Yang served as a guard at a naval port on Jeju Island where he was born.
Last week, Noh contested the final round of the Abu Dhabi Championship in the company of four-times major winner Phil Mickelson, outscoring the world number six to finish in a tie for 18th, well ahead of the American.
"I enjoyed playing alongside Phil Mickelson last week and I have played alongside a lot of major winners now like Michael Campbell, David Toms, Shaun Micheel and Graeme McDowell," Noh added.
"It was great playing alongside all those majors winners but it was very different alongside Phil Mickelson especially on the last day of an event.
"I managed to eagle the last hole so I finished in front of him, but I just enjoyed the round so much."
For the opening two rounds in Bahrain, Noh finds himself in the company of leading Europeans Robert Karlsson and Paul Casey.
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