KGA Tournament Committee
Korean-American Seungsu Han claimed the jewel in the crown of Korean golf today after recording an astonishing wire-to-wire victory in the Kolon Korea Open.
On another hot and sunny day at Woo Jeong Hills Country Club he coolheadedly handled the pressure of front running from the get go to close with an even-par 71 for a six under par winning total and a commanding six-shot win over Korea’s Kyungnam Kang, who also carded a 71.
Korean Seungbin Choi claimed third, a shot further back, after shooting a 68 – the best round of the day, and one of only two sub-70 rounds, on the taxing Woo Jeong Hills track.
Han’s magnificent triumph also allowed him to secure one of the two spots on offer in this year’s Open Championship at Royal Liverpool Golf Club, Kang took the other.
Any doubts that Han, who started today with a slim one-shot lead over Jaekyeong Lee from Korea, would succumb to the pressure were put to rest on the front nine when he made the turn with a five-shot lead, on seven under, ahead of Korean Junghwan Lee.
It was just the cushion he was looking for despite an up-and-down front nine, consisting of three birdies and two bogeys. His lead was seven at one point on the back nine with the rest of the field going backwards while he was coasting.
He averted a potential disaster on the par-four 15th after a wayward tee shot left saw his ball finish in a terrible lie – in long, thick grass. Bravely opting not to take a drop he hit an explosive recovery shot back into play, reached the green with his third and to the roar of the crowd holed a 30-footer for an astonishing par save – affirming this was most certainly his week, and the greatest of his career so far.
His lead was cut to six on the ensuing hole after a bogey and by the 18th he was five ahead, but he put the icing on the cake by holing a six-foot birdie putt on the par-five 18th.
“This is such a great honour,” said Han, the 36-year-old who was born in Incheon, Korea, but moved to the United States when he was 13, where he still lives, and first started to play in Asia back in 2010, enjoying most of his success in Japan.
“I was really struggling with foot pains and my throat wasn’t good either, so it was tremendously challenging. I hardly look at the scores, maybe a few times. I didn’t look at it on purpose. It was about being mentally strong and my putting was great, I holed some long ones.
“I first started playing in Korea when I was 13, so the Korea Open means a lot to me. I think it is the best tournament in Korea.”
Remarkably he was the only player to finish under par, and for his fine effort, he earned a cheque for US$222,222.
He becomes the 12th wire-to-wire winner of the tournament, and the seventh American to win after Ricky Fowler (2011), Edward Loar (2004), John Daly (2003), Mike Cunning (1994), Scott Hoch (1990 and 1991), and Orville Moody, who won the first three editions of the event starting in 1958.
Han’s six-shot winning margin also matched the record set by Fowler, based on records going back to 1996.
It is the biggest victory of his 14-year professional career, although his other wins were also significant: the Casio World Open in Japan in 2017, and the 2020 LG Signature Players Championship on the Korean PGA Tour.
He also enjoyed success in the amateur game, attending the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and winning the 2006 Porter Cup – a long-standing, prestigious amateur event in the United States won by some of the game’s biggest names, including Phil Mickelson, David Duval and Ben Crenshaw.
While it will be the second time he has played in a Major – he made the cut in the PGA Championship in 2018 – it will be Kang’s maiden appearance.
Defending champion Minkyu Kim of Korea returned a 73 to tie for fourth on two over par with countrymen Dongmin Lee, Jaekyeong Lee and Junghwan Lee, and Australian Brendan Jones – this year’s New Zealand Open champion.
This week’s KRW1,400,000,000 (approximately US$1,075,000) event was the 10th stop of the season on the Asian Tour.