JEJU ISLAND (South Korea): Kim Bi-o conquered strong winds and an errant driver to shoot a four–under 68 and claim a one–shot lead after the first round of the SK Telecom Open at Pinx Golf Club here yesterday.
The 21–year–old South Korean, bidding for back–to–back OneAsia titles after claiming the GS Caltex Maekyung Open last week, made light work of blustery morning conditions with six birdies offset by two bogeys.
His compatriot and amateur Kim Si-woo and Australian Adam Crawford were a stroke behind, while 10 players shared fourth place a shot further back.
“The wind made it tough at the start and I wasn’t driving very well but after five holes, it started to come together,” said Kim Bi-o, who won the China Masters last year.
“My putting was pretty good though. I lined a few up and they just went in.”
US PGA Tour stalwart K.J. Choi, a three–time winner of this event, finished the day one–over but promised a better showing in the second round today.
“The wind was very strong so you had to hit a lot of long irons in as second shots and it is very difficult to stop a long iron on these greens,” said Choi.
“I wanted to be around par, so to be one–over is not too bad. The next few days are going to be very exciting.”
China’s Hu Mu topped the leaderboard for a while after going six–under through 13 holes, but his game came unstuck at the 14th and he dropped four shots in three holes before closing two–under for a share of fourth place.
After spending the off–season working out in the gym, Hu Mu said he was getting a bit more distance with his irons and still getting used to the yardage in the wind.
“(For example), I had 220 yards with a five iron upwind and 270 yards downwind with four iron,” he said. “If I can control the distance, I have the chance to do well in the tournament.”
American rookie Garrett Sapp rewarded the sponsors for their special invitation by also finishing two–under, as did a host of others including Aussie Matthew Guyatt and Indonesian ace Rory Hie.