The 65th staging of the Kolon Korea Open brings with it a treasure trove of storylines thanks to an exceptional starting line up this week at Woo Jeung Hills Country Club – located in Cheonan, just over an hour drive south of Korea’s capital Seoul.
The opportunity to win one of the region’s most illustrious competitions coupled with the chance to claim one of the two places up for grabs in this year’s Open Championship at Royal Liverpool Golf Club has meant the tournament is strong in depth.
Zimbabwe’s Scott Vincent returns to what is the 10th event of the season on the Asian Tour, after a hugely impressive run on the LIV Golf League – highlighted by a fourth-place finish in Singapore.
He is joined by his brother Kieran, who claimed the International Series Vietnam in April and is one of five winners from the Asian Tour this year competing here, along with Hong Kong’s Taichi Kho (World City Championship presented by Hong Kong Golf Club), Miguel Tabuena (The DGC Open presented by Mastercard) from the Philippines and Australian Brendan Jones (New Zealand Open).
Tabuena, who has not finished worse than 22nd in six starts in 2023, is the leading player competing from the Asian Tour Order of Merit (OOM), sitting in second place; while Kieran Vincent is the top golfer from the International Series OOM. He is in third place on that Merit list, which sees the winner at the end of the season earn passage onto the 2024 LIV Golf League – a feat achieved by his brother Scott last year.
The other Asian Tour winner from this season is Korea’s shining new star Chanmin Jung, who recorded a surprise victory in the GS Caltex Maekyung Open in May.
The strapping 23 year old, nicknamed ‘Korea’s Hulk’, is bidding to become only the second player to win the Maekyung event and Kolon Korea Open in the same season. His compatriot Sangmoon Bae, did the double in 2009.
Defending champion Minkyu Kim, who beat fellow Korean Mingyu Cho in a play-off last season, is back this year along with five other former winners: Junseok Lee (2021), Seunghyuk Kim (2014), Yikeun Chang (2017), Minchel Choi (2018), and veteran Jong-duck Kim (1997).
All eyes will also be on Korea’s Ji-Ho Yang who won the Hana Bank Invitational on the Japan Golf Tour last week while one of the country’s most successful golfers Bio Kim is here looking to claim the title for the first time.
Bio Kim and Kho have the advantage of having already booked their tickets to The Open after top-four finishes in the World City Championship.
In addition, the tournament features nine amateurs, led by reigning Korea amateur champion Hyunuk Kim, Minhyuk Song, who tied for second in the Maekyung tournament, Wooyoung Cho, winner of the Golfzon Open on the Korean PGA Tour this year, and Yubin Jang, the highest ranked amateur in the field according to the World Amateur Golf Ranking in 92nd place.
Korea’s Daesub Kim is the only amateur to have tasted victory in Korea’s national Open; he triumphed twice, in 1998 and 2001, and completed his hat-trick as a professional in 2012.
All have some way to go to catch Korean Changsang Han, who has been victorious in this event a record seven times in the 1960s and 1970s – a remarkable achievement for the former caddie who went on to become Chairman of the Korean PGA.