JEJU ISLAND (South Korea): Kim Bi-O held his nerve to secure a second OneAsia victory in a row and leap to the top of the Order of Merit with a three-shot victory in the SK Telecom Open yesterday.
The 21-year-old home favourite fired rounds of 68-68-67-67 for an 18-under total 270 around Pinx Golf Club on the South Korean holiday island of Jeju, beating compatriot Park Sang-hyun into sole second place.
Bi-O took home a cheque of about US$170,000, bringing his earnings on OneAsia to US$250,000 in 2012.
It was his third OneAsia title following a five-shot triumph in last week’s GS Caltex Maekyung Open and a play-off victory at last year’s Nanshan China Masters.
Bi-O had seen his two-stroke overnight lead evaporate when Sang-hyun, playing in the group ahead, scored three birdies and an eagle on his first four holes. He made the turn in just 30 and then eagled the 10th to move two strokes clear.
“I could hear a few roars up front, but I’m kind of glad I had no idea what was going on,” Bi-O told One Asia.
“I think if I knew how he was playing, what he was doing, I would probably have tried to be a bit more aggressive – and that could have been dangerous.”
The tide turned back in Bi-O’s favour in a half-hour spell over the closing holes.
After making birdie on the 14th, he hit an aggressive second shot on the par-five 16th behind a thick clump of grass, in deep rough, before pulling off a miraculous rescue that landed the ball four feet from the pin, which he converted for another birdie.
Ahead on the par-three 17th, Sang-hyun put his tee shot in a greenside bunker and splashed out too far, making bogey for a two-shot swing.
A disconsolate Sang-hyun saw any remaining hopes of victory evaporate with a bogey on the 18th, while Bi-O closed out with a routine par to claim the traditional red jacket.
“It’s a great feeling to be playing so well,” said Bi-O, who at 20 was the youngest player on the PGA circuit in 2011, but lost his card at the end of the year and is back playing the Nationwide Tour.
The 16-year-old amateur Kim Si-woo closed with a two-under round to share third place with another South Korean, Joo Heung-chol.
PGA Tour veteran K.J. Choi, a three-time winner in Jeju, finished four under for the tournament in joint 13th place. — AFP