Cheonan, Korea: Lee Kyung-hoon claimed the title that all Koreans covet the most when he triumphed in the Kolon Korea Open at Woo Jeung Hills Country Club.
The leader by two at the start of the day showed maturity beyond his 24 years of age to close with a five-under-par 66 and win the OneAsia event by four shots from his compatriot Kim Meen-whee, who also carded 66.
Koreans Wang Jeung-hun (70) and Lee Dong-min (71) tied for third two shots further back.
Lee finished second in the Fujisankei Classic last weekend on the Japan Golf Tour Organisation (JGTO) and returned to Korea with momentum and confidence in full supply.
“It is an incredible feeling,” said Lee Kyung-hoon, whose tournament total was 13-under-par 271. “I have been playing well recently and could not have found a better time to find my form. The Korea Open is our biggest event and it is a great honour to win.”
He has tasted victory once before as a professional, in the 2012 Sega Sammy Cup on the JGTO.
The talented golfer quickly became the man to catch when he eagled the par-five fifth and birdied seven, eight and nine.
On the back nine Kim, playing in the group ahead, made an attempt to catch the pace-setter by making birdie on 14 and 15, but Lee retaliated by also making birdie on the same holes.
Lee hit stray tee shots on 17 and 18 to make things more exciting but both times he chipped back into the fairway and was able to get up and down to make pars.
“I am proud of the way I handled the pressure. Four shots is a nice margin but it was all much closer than that,” said Lee.
This year marked the 58th staging of the Korea Open and Lee’s name will be inscribed on a trophy that also features such eminent names as Americans Rickie Fowler (2011) and John Daly (2003), Vijay Singh from Fiji (2007), Spain’s Sergio Garcia (2002) and Korean great KJ Choi (1996 and 1999).
It was a fine tournament by another rising star Kim who this year has been plying his trade on the PGA Tour where notably in July he tied for third in the Barbasol Championship.
“I will take a lot of confidence from this. Lee was always a bit too far ahead so finishing second here was a great result,” said 23-year-old Kim, winner of the gold medal at the 2010 Asian Games.
Australian Steven Jeffress, the first and second round leader, and Korean Moon Kyong-jun, winner of the GS Caltex Maekyung Open this year on OneAsia, finished equal fifth after rounds of 72 and 69 respectively.