By Tony Jimenez
GULLANE, Scotland (Reuters) - Ernie Els, who begins the defense of his British Open title on Thursday, has agreed to become the Asian Tour's first international ambassador.
The 43-year-old South African also joins South Korean pair Yang Yong-eun and KJ Choi, Fijian Vijay Singh and Jeev Milkha Singh of India as an honorary member of the 10-year tour.
"It is a great honor for me ... this is absolutely wonderful," Els said in a news release on Tuesday. "I've played in Asia for many, many years and ... this is something which I will take seriously.
"Who knows where the Asian Tour will be in 10 years' time? I can only see it growing ... golf is so spectacular over there for the people and they are so excited about it.
"Golf courses are going up all over the place there. It just keeps growing."
Former world number one Els has been a big supporter of the Asian Tour, featuring in 26 tournaments across the region since 2004 and picking up two victories and 16 other top-10 finishes.
The golfer known as the 'Big Easy', for his smooth-swinging style, will play alongside U.S. Open winner Justin Rose and American Brandt Snedeker in the first two rounds of this week's Open.
(Editing by Pritha Sarkar)