18th June 2019 | Asian Tour
Tour Insider: Week of the Kolon Korea Open
By Olle Nordberg, Former Asian Tour and European Tour professional
The 62nd edition of the Kolon Korea Open Golf Championship will once again be staged at Woo Jeong Hills Country Club in Cheonan and will like last year be co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour and Korea Golf Association (KGA).
The event will offer a purse of KRW 1,200 million, approximately US$ 1,067,000, and with a cheque of US$266,800 going to the winner, the champion this week is guaranteed to make a big move on the Asian Tour Order of Merit.
It’s also part of The Open Qualifying Series and two spots to The Open at Royal Portrush in July are up for grabs. The top two players not otherwise exempt and inside the top-eight and ties can be booking their tickets to the last Major of the year on Sunday afternoon.
Woo Jeong Hills is a Dye Designs course that requires players to bring an accurate game off the tee, with many holes having water and Out-of-Bounds very much in play.
It also features fast and challenging greens with some very tricky pin-positions. Players will need to understand which side of the hole offer makeable putts, approach shots that end up on the wrong side of mounds or tiers on the greens will make for extremely difficult two-putts.
There are also three strong par-three holes that need to be negotiated safely in numbers eight, 13 and 16.
The course has been the home of the Kolon Korea Open since 2003 and past champions at Woo Jeong Hills include international stars such as John Daly (2003), Y.E. Yang (2006 & 2010), Vijay Singh (2007), and Rickie Fowler (2011).
Defending champion Minchel Choi of Korea will be looking for a return to form on a course where he has a good record, having finished tied-sixth in 2017 in addition to the victory last year.
He will however face stiff competition to retain the title, perhaps most notably from the highest ranked player in the field Kevin Na. The Korean-born American beat Tony Finau by four shots to claim his third PGA TOUR victory at the Charles Schwab Challenge in late May. He is the highest-ranked player in the 144-man field, placed 32nd on the latest OWGR.
Na started his pro career on the Asian Tour back in 2002 and had a win at the Volvo Masters of Asia to go along with five other top-10 finishes in his rookie season.
Habitat for Humanity Standings leader Scott Hend of Australia will be making his first start in the Korea Open since 2007 and is a dangerous contender in any tournament where he tees it up. One of the longest drivers on tour, the 2019 Maybank Championship winner may have an advantage over shorter players if he can also keep the ball in the fairway off the tee.
Currently ahead by US$ 56,235 in the Order of Merit race, staying in front will surely be on his mind this week.
Thailand’s Jazz Janewattananond has been in stellar form since winning the SMBC Singapore Open at the start of the season. Currently second on the Order of Merit behind Hend, Jazz coming into this event with two straight top-5’s on the Japan Tour (JGTO) to go along with his four top-5’s on the Asian Tour this year.
Having narrowly missed out on a U.S. Open exemption by the smallest of margins by being ranked 61st on the OWGR last week, Jazz will be looking to continue his march towards the world’s top-50 this week in Korea.
A two-time winner on the Asian Tour last year, Korean star Sanghuyn Park has the best recent record in the tournament by anyone in the field this week. Park has finished inside the top-10 the last four years in a row, including a runner-up in 2018 two strokes behind Choi.
With multiple tournaments won in Korea and Japan, Park would dearly like to win his National Open. A title still lacking from his otherwise very solid resume.
Having just won his first professional tournament last week on the AbemaTV Tour in Japan, Scott Vincent of Zimbabwe could be primed for his first Asian Tour victory.
Vincent has an impressive record since arriving on the scene in Asia in 2016, with five runners-up, 11 other top-10’s and a fifth place on the 2018 Order of Merit to his credit. His highest finish on this year’s Asian Tour is a fourth place in the ISPS Handa World Super 6 Perth in February.