Play-Off Cheer for Chang

Chang Yik-eun shows off the Kolon Open trophy.

Cheonan, South Korea: Chang Yik-eun produced some magical golf to beat fellow-Korean Kim Gi-whan in a three-hole aggregate play-off at OneAsia’s Kolon Korea Open after a thrilling final round.

Chang, world ranked 533rd, earned his breakthrough win with a cumulative score of 12 (par, birdie, double-bogey) on the 16th, 17th and 18th holes at Woo Jeong Hills Country Club.

Overnight leader Kim matched Chang’s par on the 16th but bogeyed the next and double bogeyed the 18th for a total of 15.

Chang, two shots adrift of Kim at the start of the day, birdied the final three holes in regulation play to card a 70 while Kim matched Chang’s birdies on 17 and 18 for a battling one-over 72.

They were tied on seven-under 277, one stroke ahead of last year’s runner-up Choi Jin-ho, who climbed the leaderboard with a best-of-the-day 65, and Hur In-hoi (69).

Chang, who entered the US$1 million Kolon Korea Open via a OneAsia category, and Kim earned spots in The Open at Royal Birkdale next month.

Both the 23-year-old Chang and Kim looked to have blown their chances of victory with damaging double-bogeys before finishing with a flourish.

Chang, who was second in the Yeangder Heritage in Chinese Taipei at the end of April, had a double-bogey at the 14th and bogeyed the next as the tension mounted.

Kim opened brightly with a birdie before a double-bogey at the par-five fifth and three straight bogeys from the eighth sent the 26-year-old tumbling down the leaderboard.

“I made a mistake at the 14th hole that led to a double-bogey. However, I thought that there were many holes left, and I tried to think as positively as possible,” said Chang, who pocketed a cheque for US$270,000. “It’s great to get the win.”

Kim, who has suffered a series of runner up finishes on the Korean Tour, was defiant in defeat. “Although I did not win the championship, I am content to compete without giving up until the end, and when I get another chance next time, I will end up winning,” he said.

In a dramatic denouement, the lead changed several times with the main challengers experiencing a mixture of emotions.

Choi, OneAsia’s reigning number one player, set the clubhouse target of six-under 278 with his closing 65. The Korean, who came into the tournament bang in form after winning the SK Telecom Open for the second time a fortnight ago, birdied four of the final six holes, including the par-five 18th.

Hur, a one-time winner on the Japan Tour, had the tournament at his mercy thanks to four birdies in six holes from the eighth. Back-to-back bogeys on 15 and 16 halted his march to the title before a birdie on 17 took him back into the lead.

Needing a par at 18 to stay ahead of Choi, Hur bogeyed to fall into a tie on six under 278.

Teenage amateur Kim Dong-min, who had kept himself in the hunt with eight straight pars from the turn, required a birdie at the last to overtake Choi and Hur but the 18-year-old hit his drive out of bounds and chalked up a triple bogey-eight.

He carded a 73 to finish in a tie for sixth place with Choi Min-chel (74), four shots adrift of top spot.

Korean-born American Kevin Na, the highest ranked player in the field at world number 62, shot a level-par 71 in the final round to finish tied 13th.

The 60th Kolon Korea Open was the third event on OneAsia’s schedule for 2017.

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