Pattaya, Thailand: Korean Kim Kyung-tae ended a frustrating three-year wait for victory by claiming the Singha Corporation Thailand Open after a thrilling head-to-head battle with his young compatriot Wang Jeung-hun.
Kim, better known as ‘KT’, shot a seven-under-par 65 on the Plantation Course at Siam Country Club to beat Wang by three shots and finish with an impressive winning total of 21-under.
Wang fired a 67 in the US$1 million event jointly-sanctioned by OneAsia and the Japan Golf Tour Organisation.
Australian Joshua Younger, the leader at the start of the day, returned a 73 to claim sole possession of third place four shots further back.
“Today I had luck with me that made me a champion,” said the 28-year-old, admitting that three years ago he tried to adapt his game to play in the United States but the swing change backfired.
“The last three years I did not do well because I wanted to go to America and I thought if I had 20 more yards (in length) I would have a chance to win over there,” added Kim.
“I changed my swing and my rhythm and it changed my results. From there, I tried changing back to my usual swing but it took quite a while.
“This year I asked my coach to help me and he reminded me of the swing I had last time. Now I have a good mental image of my swing – so that is why I am doing well.”
He turned professional in 2006, won his first professional event the following year and hit the headlines in 2010 when he became the first Korean to win the JGTO Money List. He claimed three titles in Japan that season and has won another two since then, the most recent in the 2012 Fujisankei Classic.
In 2011, he reached number 18 on the Official World Golf Ranking and had two top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour. He also triumphed on OneAsia that year in the GS Caltex Maekyung Open in Korea.
The signs were there this year that he was returning to his best. He finished joint third in the recent SK Telecom Open on home soil on OneAsia and has three top-20 finishes in Japan in 2015.
At the turn Wang, who is 19 years old, was one stroke ahead of playing partner Kim. The former went out in six-under-par 30, including birdies on eight and nine, while Kim’s four-under front nine was nearly as impressive.
It was a two-horse race all the way and they were tied with just two holes to play. Kim showed his class and experience by making birdie on the last two holes while Wang finished with a par and bogey.
However, there was drama on the par-four 18th as they both hit strong approach shots to the green. Kim, with a one shot advantage, was 12 feet from the pin and Wang, with a chance to force a play-off, was just seven feet away.
Kim made sure there was no overtime by nailing his birdie putt while Wang surprisingly three-putted. “I played really good today. I do not have any regrets. I had a little pressure the whole day but not that much,” said Wang.
He triumphed in the Mission Hills Haikou Open last year by cruising to a 10-shot victory on the PGA Tour China and showed what he is capable in Pattaya.
He added: “I would say this has been the highlight of my golf career so far – I will be back to try and win the Thailand Open. I have no regrets – I tried my best and did my best.”
Jazz Janewattananond finished as the leading Thai golfer by closing with 72 to tie for fourth with Japan’s Yusaku Miyazato, who came in with a 68.