It's back to work for Asian Tour leader Kim
South Korean hopes to take 'bigger step'
published : 19 Jan 2022 at 04:00
newspaper section: Sports
SINGAPORE: South Korea's Kim Joo-Hyung achieved so much in his first tournament of the year -- the Singapore International -- last week.
He won the tournament in a thrilling sudden-death play-off, took over top spot on the Asian Tour Order of Merit and moved into the top-100 in the world rankings.
The 19-year-old knows that he cannot rest on his laurels as this week he competes in the US$1.25 million Singapore Open, the final event of the tour's 2020-21 season. "I'm still enjoying it," said the powerfully built star.
"You know, I wish I could have enjoyed it a little bit longer, but it's straight back to work. Obviously happy about that, but you know, just trying to concentrate on this week."
He holed a testing 14-foot birdie putt on the first extra hole on Sunday on the Tampines Course at Tanah Merah Country Club to beat Thailand's Rattanon Wannasrichan and register his second victory on the Asian Tour.
"To be honest, I felt kind of rusty. I needed to do quarantine. It was very cold in South Korea and couldn't play a lot of rounds. Just did what I had to do. And with the conditions being so tough I think it really suited my game pretty well. And I played very conservative, very smart and, you know, made a lot of putts. So, I was pretty surprised last week when I won."
Kim leads the Merit list with earnings of US$399,428 but three players can catch him this week -- Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai, Chan Shih-chang from Taiwan and American Trevor Simsby. "I mean, the goal [this year] was to get at least one win and first week out, get one win and back inside the top-100 and No.1 on the Order of Merit. So, big step, but it's a bigger step this week," added the Korean, who is ranked 89th in the world.
Should he win the Merit title he will be the second youngest to do so after his compatriot Noh Seung-Yul won it in 2010.
Kim has played the Singapore Open once before, when the tournament was last played in 2020, and came fourth -- just a few months after his first Asian Tour victory at the Panasonic Open India.
That secured him a place in the British Open but the Covid-19 pandemic prevented him from competing. He played the Pro-Am yesterday as part of his preparations for one of the most important weeks of his fledgling career. The tournament begins tomorrow.
"I mean, the conditions are so pure, where you can just take advantage when you can and play conservative when you can't," he said.
"So, I mean, some holes are just right next to the ocean. So, you got to really factor the wind there and play really smart, but when you have a chance, you know, you have a chance to take advantage. And the par fives are, you know, mostly all reachable so you try to make your score there."