Asian Tour

Guntaek Koh was the home hero once again as he claimed the Shinhan Donghae Open on the Ocean Course at Club72 for his third win of the season in Korea. He eventually saw off Thailand’s Phachara Khongwatmai on the first hole of a sudden-death play-off during a race to the finish.

Koh, joint overnight leader with Canadian Richard T Lee, had closed with a four-under-par 68, matching the clubhouse total of 19-under set by Phachara – who, playing in seventh from last group out and starting the day five off the lead, shot a remarkable 63.

The Korean had to birdie the par-five 18th to catch his Thai opponent in regulation play, after hitting a brilliant third shot to three feet, and he then proceeded to make four again in the play-off, holing a 10-footer. Phachara, attempting to become the first Thai to have his name etched on to the trophy, had tried to reach the green in two but found the lake in front of the green. Remarkably, he hit his fourth to 12 feet and drained the par putt forcing Koh to make his for the win, which he duly did, to the roar of the huge crowded assembled there.

Koh’s brilliant finish showed why he has been the dominant player in Korea this year. He leads the Korean PGA Tour rankings having won the 18th DB Insurance Promy Open in April, and the Honors Invitational in June.

“There have been failures in the past few years, but this is my season,” said Koh, who also won his second event this year in extra time.

“The first win this year was the hardest but now I am in the mode and enjoying the experience. Today required a lot of patience and concentration as with Phachara having posted such a good score early on the chase was on. I felt I had to make that birdie putt in the play-off, if not I felt I was going to lose.

“A victory in an event on this scale, against the best from the Asian Tour and Japan Tour is simply incredible.”

Earlier in the day, the 23-year-old from Jeju had a one shot-lead over Lee at the turn after going out in four-under-par 32, thanks to birdies on four and five and an eagle on the par-five seventh, with Phachara another shot back. However, he dropped a shot on 10 and made a double on 13, while Phachara stormed into the lead.

Koh was on the 15th when Phachara finished his round, two-behind the Thai golfer, along with Lee. Both made birdie on that hole to move one closer, but Lee fell away with a bogey on 16, paving the way for Koh’s grandstand finish.

Phachara was looking to secure his second victory on the Asian Tour — his first was the Laguna Phuket Championship at the end of 2021 — but he took solace from the fact he had found is swing again.

“I am back to my old game now,” said the Thai star, “because I only just found my swing last week, before I arrived at this tournament. I found with my coach on Sunday.

“I had lost it about three weeks ago. For those two events in UK my swing was gone. I was relying on my short game to make the cut in those UK events. I couldn’t figure it out until my coach helped.”

With two fourth-place finishes this year it will surely not be long before he wins again.

He added: “My game now is very, very good. Best since I started playing golf. Normally my driver is the problem but now it’s great. I hit many fairways today and I had a lot of birdies.”

Lee, winner of this event in 2017, returned a 70 and tied for third with Japan’s Keita Nakajima and Australian Anthony Quayle.