Korean-American Seungsu Han took route 66 on the opening day of the Kolon Korea Open today – impressively taking the lead on five under at the notoriously challenging Woo Jeong Hills Country Club, in Cheonan, south of Seoul.

South African Ian Snyman fired a 68, while Koreans Minkyu Kim, the defending champion, Inhoi Hur, Jeongwoo Ham and Sungjoon Park plus India’s Chikkarangappa S and Chinese-Taipei’s Lee Chieh-po returned 69s.

Han is a winner on both the Japan Golf Tour and the Korean Tour, but today’s round will rank amongst one of his finest in a tournament every Korean dreams of winning.

Remarkably, he was also joint first-round leader last year following a 68 before finishing in tie for 42nd after a disappointing Sunday score which was 10 shots worse than his opening day effort.

Six birdies and just one dropped shot helped him post a rare round in the mid-60s at Woo Jeong Hills – a ball-strikers course with limited room for error where the winning total last year was just four under for four days.

“I didn’t feel well this morning,” said the 36 year old, who warmed up for this week by tying for 12th in last week’s Hana Bank Invitational – a event jointly-sanction by the Japan Golf Tour and Korean PGA Tour.

“I think it led to a good result because I was able to empty my mind and play. I want to play hard until the end because it’s a big tournament. Woo Jeong Hills is always difficult, the layout is difficult, as is the course set up. So, I think I have to play patiently from beginning to end.”

A professional for 14 years, and a graduate from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, he won the Casio World Open in Japan in 2017, and on the Korean PGA Tour he claimed the LG Signature Players Championship in 2020.

Snyman, playing just his second season on the Asian Tour, was equally as happy to get the better of Woo Jeong Hills, which has hosted this tournament since 2003, the year American John Daly lifted the trophy.

He said: “Tough golf course, very hard to hit fairways, some of these fairways are eight yards wide! I just tried and played to the bigger side of the fairways and hit a bunch of three woods off the tee. Being in the fairway is everything out here.  That was the game plan, it worked, putted great.”

He cruised into the lead with four birdies before his only dropped shot of the day came on 16.

“To be honest this year has been pretty average, I am struggling to put four rounds together,” said Snyman.

“It has been three good rounds then I will shoot a two over, and I feel on the Asian Tour, especially this year because the depth is so deep, if you shoot a two over on an average difficulty golf course you go from eighth to 35th in a heartbeat. I need my whole game to click, usually there is one thing off.

“I was in relaxed mode out there, got my buddy caddying for me for the first time in a pro event, and we are just taking it easy, enjoying Korea, eating some Korean BBQ, trying all the other dishes, it’s been good.”  

Zimbabwe’s Kieran Vincent, winner of the International Series Vietnam in April, which was his first victory in the pro game, shot a 70, while Ji-ho Yang from Korea, who was triumphant in the Hana Bank Invitational last Sunday, signed for a 72.

Filipino Miguel Tabuena, the highest ranked player here on the Asian Tour Order of Merit in second place, came in with a 73, as did Chanmin Jung, the burly Korean who won this year’s GS Caltex Maekyung Open.

Zimbabwean star Scott Vincent – older brother of Kieran and winner of last year’s International Series Order of Merit, currently enjoying success on the LIV Golf League – signed for an uncharacteristic 80.

Korean Yubin Jang – the leading amateur in the field according to the World Amateur Golf Ranking in 92nd place – finished the day as the leading amateur after shooting a 71. Nine amateurs are competing.

This week’s tournament is part of The Open Qualifying Series and will see the leading two players make it through to The Open at Royal Liverpool Golf Club, 20-23 July.

Korean Bio Kim and Hong Kong’s Taichi Kho, both playing this week, have already secured their places in golf’s oldest Major, thanks to strong performances at the World City Championship presented by the Hong Kong Golf Club. They had poor days, with the former carding a 76, and the latter an 80.

Scores after round 1 of the Kolon The 65th Korea Open Golf Championship being played at the par 71, 7326 Yards Woojeong Hills CC course (am – denotes amateur):
66 – Seungsu Han (USA).
68 – Ian Snyman (RSA).
69 – Sungjoon Park (KOR), S Chikkarangappa (IND), Minkyu Kim (KOR), Inhoi Hur (KOR), Lee Chieh-po (TPE), Jeongwoo Ham (KOR).
70 – Junggon Hwang (KOR), Jaekyeong Lee (KOR), Junghwan Lee (KOR), Dongmin Kim (KOR), Jinichiro Kozuma (JPN), Taewoo Kim #1087 (KOR), Kieran Vincent (ZIM), Taehee Lee (KOR), Brendan Jones (AUS), Jaehyun Jung (KOR).
71 – Atiruj Winaicharoenchai (THA), Hyoseop Cheon (KOR), Yubin Jang (am, KOR), Bjorn Hellgren (SWE), Kyungnam Kang (KOR), Prom Meesawat (THA), Osung Kwon (KOR), Soomin Lee (KOR), Seungbin Choi (KOR), Jiung Jeong (KOR), Ryosuke Kinoshita (JPN), Kangho Cha (KOR).
72 – Jiho Yang (KOR), Sanghyun Park (KOR), Mingyu Cho (KOR), Zach Murray (AUS), Hanmil Jung (KOR), Taeho Kim (KOR), Doyeon Hwang (KOR), Jaeho Kim (KOR), Richard T. Lee (CAN), Danthai Boonma (THA), Settee Prakongvech (THA), Junseok Lee (AUS), Galam Jeon (KOR), Doyeob Mun (KOR), Neil Schietekat (RSA), Eunshin Park (KOR), Poom Saksansin (THA), Junsub Park (KOR).
73 – Miguel Tabuena (PHI), Sanghee Lee (KOR), Yongjun Bae (KOR), Seunghyuk Kim (KOR), Youngjoon Choi (KOR), Yoseop Seo (KOR), Kevin Yuan (AUS), Minhyuk Song (am, KOR), Sanghun Shin (KOR), Heemin Chang (KOR), Jaco Ahlers (RSA), Honey Baisoya (IND), Chanmin Jung (KOR), Junsung Kim (KOR), Seukhyun Baek (KOR), Wonjoon Lee (AUS), Hongtaek Kim (KOR), Doohwan Bang (KOR), Sungho Yun (KOR), Dongmin Lee (KOR).
74 – Pawin Ingkhapradit (THA), Jinho Choi (KOR), Ben Leong (MAS), Jinsung Kim #875 (KOR), S.S.P. Chawrasia (IND), Hyunwoo Ryu (KOR), Kyongjun Moon (KOR), Sungjin Noh (KOR), Terry Pilkadaris (AUS), Jaemin Hwang #859 (KOR), Viraj Madappa (IND).
75 – Itthipat Buranatanyarat (THA), Taehoon Kim (KOR), Woohyun Kim (KOR), Yonggu Shin (CAN), Nicholas Fung (MAS), Scott Hend (AUS), Hyungjoon Lee (KOR), Sarit Suwannarut (THA), Seung Park (KOR), Seungtaek Lee (KOR), Hoseon Chae (KOR), Sungkug Park (KOR).
76 – Jbe Kruger (RSA), Jaeyoung Koo (KOR), Sadom Kaewkanjana (THA), Jinjae Byun (KOR), Gyeongjun Lee (KOR), Rahil Gangjee (IND), Chang Wei-lun (TPE), Wanki Pyo (KOR), Hosung Choi (KOR), Bio Kim (KOR), Yunseok Kang (KOR).
77 – Taehoon Ok (KOR), Hyeonguk Park (KOR), Dongseop Maeng (KOR), Berry Henson (USA), Jaehun Jeong (KOR), Miguel Carballo (ARG), Ajeetesh Sandhu (IND), Wooyoung Cho (am, KOR), Rattanon Wannasrichan (THA), Gowoong Choi (KOR), Jongduck Kim (KOR), Eric Chun (KOR), Suradit Yongcharoenchai (THA).
78 – Hyunuk Kim (am, KOR), Yikeun Chang (KOR), Jin Bo (am, CHN), Minchel Choi (KOR), Minjun Kim (KOR), Dongeun Kim (KOR), Seonghyeon Jeon (KOR), Micah Lauren Shin (USA).
79 – Pavit Tangkamolprasert (THA), Nitithorn Thippong (THA), Giwhan Kim (KOR), Chan Shih-chang (TPE), Natipong Srithong (THA).
80 – Scott Vincent (ZIM), Sungmin Cho (KOR), Simon Seungmin Lee (KOR), Taichi Kho (HKG), Sungho Lee (am, KOR), Tirawat Kaewsiribandit (THA), Bongsub Kim (KOR), Donghyun Moon (am, KOR), Seonghyeon An (am, KOR), Steve Lewton (ENG), Karandeep Kochhar (IND).
81 – Kosuke Hamamoto (THA), Guntaek Koh (KOR), Jaehun Choi #2007 (KOR).
86 – Youngchul Kim (am, KOR).
Jarin Todd, USA – RT

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