Korean born American Kevin Na will be teeing it up this week at the 60th Korea Open, and he is not here just to make up the numbers. Na has been one of the most consistent players on the PGA Tour in recent years, but a few close calls have left him frustrated in his quest for his next professional victory.
There’s no doubt that current world number 61 and full PGA Tour member is here to in Korea to win this prestigious national title and end his six year drought without a professional victory.
Woo Jeong Hills will once again be the host venue – a course that is guaranteed to provide the spectators with entertainment all the way to the par 5 18th. The weather in Korea has been perfect over the past few weeks, although there is a possibility of thunderstorms during this week’s tournament.
2015 and 2016 defending champion, Kyounghoon Lee has decided to bypass a historic treble of consecutive victories to play on the Web.com Tour this week. It’s understandable that he needs to focus on this Tour and at the very least retain his card, but still quite surprising not to see him tee it up in Korea this week.
When looking at this week’s field for the milestone 60th Korea Open, you can’t help but notice that in addition to Lee’s absence, quite a few big name Korean players have opted to play the JGT Championship- one of the Japan Tour Majors. This clash is down to the rescheduling of the Korea Open to accommodate The Open qualification spots available. Many of the JGTO top Korean members, as well as a number of dual members are choosing to play the Mori Building Cup at Shishido Hills.
Even though the Korea Open is offering up two spots for The Open to the winner and runner up, the prize money is less than in Japan, which must be one of the main reasons why the Korea Open is less desirable for the following players, who have all won titles on the Japan Tour before: KT Kim, Younghan Song, Junwon Park, Junggon Hwang, Kyung Jun Moon and Hyung Sung Kim. Bad scheduling is at fault for this avoidable situation.
SK Telecom Open champion Jinho Choi and Maekyung Open champion Sanghee Lee will also be looking to continue their impressive season form, as the duo lead the race for that all important 2018 European Tour card. Choi is coming off a tied 3rd last week, a week after his SK victory. He was also second here last year.
Thailand’s hottest young prospect Rattanon Wannasrichan (Phachara Khongwatmai- late withdrawal) will return to Korea this week, to try and emulate his strong performance at the GS Caltex Maekyung Open. Since his last visit a few weeks ago, Wannasrichan has won his first professional tournament at the Thailand Open- his national title. Apart from Na, this duo are expected to pose the main threat to the Korean contingent.
As previously mentioned, this week’s winner and runner up will also qualify for The Open at Royal Birkdale; some extra motivation for players to put on a show!
Also, let’s not forget that it was at the 2011 Korea Open that a then 22 year old Rickie Fowler won his first professional title!
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