Dramatic Play-Off Glory for Rising Korean Star

Kim Min-kyu celebrates his victory. Picture by Kolon Korea Open.

Cheonan, Korea: In a nail-biting finish to the Kolon Korea Open, rising star Kim Min-kyu defeated fellow-Korean Cho Ming-yu in a three-hole play-off at Woo Jeong Hills Country Club.

Kim, aged 21, holed a 10-foot birdie putt on the imposing par-five 18th to finish the play-off, which was played over holes 16, 17 and 18, on even-par. Cho made bogey to end one-over. It was a stunning turnaround as Kim started with a par and a bogey verses the two pars his opponent had made to put him in control.  

It is the first time that Kim – who hit global headlines in 2018 when he claimed the D+D Real Czech Challenge on the Challenge Tour, becoming its youngest-ever winner at 17 years and 64 days – has won in Korea and his success was rewarded with an invite to The Open at St Andrews next month. Cho’s consolation prize is also a place in the elite field for the game’s oldest Major.

Kim began the day three shots behind the overnight leaders Cho and Korean Ok Tae-hoon but steadily worked his way through the field with a two-under-par 69 to set the clubhouse lead on four-under, which included a bogey on the last.

Korean Lee Hyung-joon, playing in the penultimate group, looked set to surpass that total and most likely win the tournament when he was five-under playing 18 but added to the drama of the day when he finished with a double-bogey after hitting out of bounds.

Cho, aged 33, then had a chance to win the 64th staging of Korea’s national Open in normal time with a 20-foot birdie putt on 18 but his attempt narrowly missed, and he signed for a 72 to send the event into over-time.

“I can’t believe I have actually won!” said Kim, who has posted seven top-10s in his last 10 starts. “I have come close to winning before and I wondered if I would ever win. I felt good on the back nine and started to feel I had a chance. Straight after I won, I thought of my father. I have to thank him for this. My golf is just beginning.”

On the final play-off hole Cho hit an errant drive which forced him to punch his ball back into play while Kim assumed control after hitting his second over the green. Cho’s third found the edge of the green from where he played a poor chip to 25 feet. He proceeded to miss that while Kim got up and down for the most important birdie of his career.

Said Cho: “[Winning] is a difficult task. I think it was a good day, and I will move on. I am now planning to go and play in Europe for the first time. I am sure, I’ll learn a lot.”

American Jarin Todd closed with a 70 to tie for third with Lee, who returned a 71, one shot short of the play-off.

“I made a few mistakes on the back nine,” said Todd. “Those holes are playing pretty tough. I missed on the wrong spots, and paid for it. But I would have taken a top-five finish at the start of the week just because this course doesn’t really suit me.”

The Asian Tour, a Full Business Member of the Asian Golf Industry Federation, takes a short summer break now before restarting at the US$500,000 Mandiri Indonesia Open, which will be played at Pondok Indah Golf Course from August 4-7.

It will mark the start of an exciting second half of the season which will see a full schedule of tournaments through to January 2023.

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