Bio Kim is due a maiden win on the Asian Tour after an exceptional run of form recently and will have an outstanding opportunity to get the monkey off his back at the GS Caltex Maekyung Open – which tees-off tomorrow at Namseoul Country Club, just outside Seoul.
The Korean star has an impressive track record in the tournament: he won in 2012, when it was not on the Asian Tour schedule, and, when he was an amateur, he tied fourth in 2007 and equal third the following year. He has also posted five other top-five finishes.
Combine this with the fact he has had five top-five finishes since the Asian Tour restarted at the end of last year, plus two other top-10s, and the stars could well align for the 31 year old this week.
“To be honest, we grew up at the Namseoul Country Club,” said Kim, whose current purple patch actually started when he claimed the LG Signature Players Championship on home soil last November.
“I had the opportunity to play the course quite a bit, because as a national team member we got to play there a lot. We had a junior tournament at Namseoul, like a Korean amateur tournament, there as well. We’ve also had some practice rounds for Maekyung, or before the Korean amateur tournament.
“I guess just comfort wise, it’s a place where I grew up and where I practice a lot. So that’s maybe a reason why I’ve had success there. I like the golf course and my house is about 20 minutes away, that helps as well. And so hopefully, I can keep that good record going on.”
Namseoul is a notoriously tricky course, especially on the approach shots and on or around the greens. The greens are usually very fast and firm, and many of them slope quite severely from back to front, so players need to try their best to keep the ball below the hole for uphill putts.
“Yeah, there’s some undulations and the greens are firm and fast. You have to be kind of short of the pin all the time. The fairways are also kind of tricky to read. Sometimes the ball could go further, sometimes it’s just hard to judge the lie, so I guess growing up there just helped me out a lot.”
Kim’s style of play and local knowledge of the course also lets him stay aggressive and not give up any distance off the tee.
“I would say so, but for me, I don’t know why, I just would like to be a bit more aggressive than others because I have a lot more comfortable holes than other guys. The reason why I say that is maybe because I’m hitting the ball left to right. That kind of helps me to hit a lot of drivers out there. A lot of people use two irons, five woods and three woods off the tee. For me, I do use a lot of drivers.”
The Korean star has been consistently near the top of the leaderboards going back to late last year, and came close to posting his first Asian Tour victory at the Laguna Phuket Championship in December finishing tied-second. In his last 11 events Kim has only finished outside of the top-10 twice.
Said Kim: “I am happy with the results, but to be honest I don’t know. I’ve been just working on my game, you know, tweaking my swing and putting here and there. I just had some good vibes, good people around me, supporting me. That always helps make my golf game a little easier. I would just love to keep making birdies and eagles down the road. Hopefully I can keep that record going on and hopefully I can win a couple of times.”
Kim also had the experience of playing on the PGA Tour back in 2011, and although he didn’t quite manage to have the success there that he wanted, he still rates the experience highly.
He adds: “It was good. I mean, if I look back on it, I enjoyed it. I had a really good experience in 2011, but also, at the same time, I guess I was too young mentally to be away from home by myself. I was homesick most of the time, so I always wanted to go back to Korea. Like I would skip some events even though I could play in them.
“Now I regret that I made that choice. But you know, I guess life is just all about making mistakes and learning. Now I’m on the Asian Tour and Korean Tour, but I still want to go back to the PGA Tour at some point.”
Kim is currently in fifth place on the Asian Tour Order of Merit. The top-three ranked players, American Sihwan Kim, Thailand’s Phachara Khongwatmai and Korean Joohyung Kim, are also competing this week and have been drawn together for the first two rounds.