JEJU ISLAND (South Korea): Fresh from glory at the Players Championship, KJ Choi has high hopes of taming fierce winds at Pinx Golf Club in his native South Korea to claim a fourth SK Telecom Open title.
But the celebrated world number 15 faces stiff competition from in-form compatriots Kim Kyung-tae and Bae Sang-moon on the blustery holiday island of Jeju.
A bleary-eyed Choi, who turns 41 today, the day the tournament tees off, will be the hero of the US$1mil OneAsia event after beating American David Toms in a playoff at TPC Sawgrass on Sunday in Florida.
“It has been a long journey and I am very tired,” said the 2003, 2005 and 2008 SK Telecom Open champion.
He added that “at Pinx it (the wind) is always very strong and I am used to it because I am based in Dallas, where it is much stronger”.
“My ball striking and putting is still feeling very good, which is a positive, and I am very comfortable. I am about 85%, but all I need is a good rest and a good first round,” he added.
Defending champion Sang-moon, who is looking to join Choi as a three-time winner of Korean golf’s red jacket, has also made the trip to Jeju in form after finishing second at last week’s PGA Championship in Japan.
“I am very confident. I will play with KJ in the first round and he won last week and I will try and learn from him. I have done this in the past with bunker shots as well as course management,” said 24-year-old Sang-moon, who also claimed the title in 2007.
“It is a very windy course, which is a tricky wind. If there was no wind it would be an easy course. It is not long, but club choice with your irons is very crucial, as is putting because the greens are very fast.
“I have played this course three times before and my results have not been so good, but I have a lot of confidence this week.”
World number 35 Kyung-tae moved into second place on the OneAsia Order of Merit after recording a runaway eight-shot victory at the GS Caltex Maekyung Open in Seoul at the start of May.
He underlined his credentials to claim back-to-back titles on OneAsia after finishing third behind Sang-moon in Japan last week.
Andre Stolz of Australia, who won the season-opening Indonesia PGA Championship, is looking to defend his slender US$17,631 lead over Kyung-tae at the top of the OneAsia Order of Merit after missing the cut at the Maekyung Open. — AFP