Korean Guntaek Koh made it a hat-trick of wins in Korea this season when he claimed the Shinhan Donghae Open today, on the Ocean Course at Club72, after beating Thailand’s Phachara Khongwatmai on the first hole of a sudden-death play-off.
Koh, joint overnight leader with Canadian Richard T. Lee, had closed with a four-under-par 68, bravely matching the formidable clubhouse total of 19-under-par set by Phachara – who, playing in seventh from last group out and starting the day five off the lead, shot a remarkable 63.
The Korean had to birdie the par-five 18th to catch his Thai opponent in regulation play, after hitting a brilliant third shot to three feet, and he then proceeded to make four again in the play-off, holing a 10-footer. Phachara, attempting to become the first Thai to have his name etched onto the trophy, had tried to reach the green in two but found the lake in front of the green.
Remarkably, he hit his fourth to 12 feet and drained the par putt forcing Koh to make his for the win, which he duly did, to the roar of the huge crowded assembled there.
Koh’s brilliant finish showed why he has been the dominant player in Korea this year. He leads the Korean PGA Tour rankings having won the 18th DB Insurance Promy Open in April, and the Honors K •Solarago CC Han Jang-sang Invitational in June.
“There have been failures in the past few years, but this is my season,” said Koh, who also won his second event this year in extra time.
“The first win this year was the hardest but now I am in the mode and enjoying the experience. Today required a lot of patience and concentration as with Phachara having posted such a good score early on the chase was on. I felt I had to make that birdie putt in the play-off, if not I felt I was going to lose.
“A victory in an event on this scale, against the best from the Asian Tour and Japan Tour is simply incredible.”
Earlier in the day, the 23-year-old from Jeju had a one shot-lead over Lee at the turn after going out in four-under-par 32, thanks to birdies on four and five and an eagle on the par-five seventh, with Phachara another shot back. However, he dropped a shot on 10 and made a double on 13, while Phachara stormed into the lead.
Koh was on the 15th when Phachara finished his round, two-behind the Thai golfer, along with Lee. Both made birdie on that hole to move one closer, but Lee fell away with a bogey on 16, paving the way for Koh’s grandstand finish.
Phachara was looking to secure his second victory on the Asian Tour – his first was the Laguna Phuket Championship at the end of 2021 – but he took solace from the fact he had found is swing again.
“I am back to my old game now,” said the Thai star, “because I only just found my swing last week, before I arrived at this tournament. I found with my coach on Sunday, it was actually Sunday night.
“I had lost it about three weeks ago. For those two events in UK my swing was gone. I was relying on my short game to make the cut in those UK events. I couldn’t figure it out until my coach helped. My coach in Paragorn – a very good friend, now full-time coach.”
With two fourth place finishes this year it will surely not be long before he wins again.
He added: “My game now is very, very good. Best since I started playing golf. Normally my driver is the problem but now it’s great. I hit many fairways today and I had a lot of birdies.”
Lee, winner of this event in 2017, returned a 70 and tied for third with Japan’s Keita Nakajima, currently second on the Japan Golf Tour Money List after two wins this year, who carded a 66, and Australian Anthony Quayle, in with a 69. They finished two strokes short of the play-off.
Miguel Tabuena, in second place on the Asian Tour Order of Merit, did little to close the gap on top placed Andy Ogletree from the United States, who is not here this week. The Filipino, battling a niggling left wrist injury, carded a 69 to finish nine under in a tie for 44th.
The tournament was tri-sanctioned between the Asian, Japan and Korea Tours.
The Asian Tour heads to Chinese-Taipei in a week’s time for the Yeangder TPC. The US$750,000 event, won last year by Australian Travis Smyth, will be played at Linkou International Golf and Country Club, from Sep 21-24.
Scores after round 4 of the The 39th Shinhan Donghae Open being played at the par 72, 7204 Yards Club72 Country Club course (am – denotes amateur):
269 – Guntaek Koh (KOR) 69-66-66-68, Phachara Khongwatmai (THA) 65-70-71-63.
271 – Keita Nakajima (JPN) 71-67-67-66, Anthony Quayle (AUS) 65-70-67-69, Richard T. Lee (CAN) 68-66-67-70.
272 – Kieran Vincent (ZIM) 66-71-71-64, Sanghyun Park (KOR) 68-68-68-68, Taehoon Ok (KOR) 66-69-67-70.
273 – Kensei Hirata (JPN) 73-67-69-64, Ian Snyman (RSA) 71-70-69-63.
274 – Ryo Ishikawa (JPN) 70-71-68-65, Taeho Kim (KOR) 70-66-72-66, Kyongjun Moon (KOR) 69-68-71-66, Inhoi Hur (KOR) 70-67-70-67, Seonghyeon Jeon (KOR) 68-68-70-68, David Puig (ESP) 64-71-68-71, Ryuko Tokimatsu (JPN) 66-71-66-71, Wooyoung Cho (am, KOR) 67-64-71-72.
275 – Mikiya Akutsu (JPN) 69-71-68-67, Jeongwoo Ham (KOR) 70-69-69-67, Sanghun Shin (KOR) 71-66-70-68, Ryutaro Nagano (JPN) 66-72-69-68, Shaun Norris (RSA) 69-69-69-68, Travis Smyth (AUS) 70-69-67-69.
276 – Hiroshi Iwata (JPN) 72-69-67-68, Minkyu Kim (KOR) 67-72-69-68, Shunya Takeyasu (JPN) 70-67-73-66, Yosuke Tsukada (JPN) 71-68-69-68, Younghan Song (KOR) 68-71-68-69, Zach Murray (AUS) 70-68-68-70, Osang Kwon (KOR) 74-64-67-71, Eunshin Park (KOR) 70-68-67-71.
277 – Yongjun Bae (KOR) 70-68-71-68, Seungsu Han (USA) 68-73-67-69, Jbe Kruger (RSA) 71-66-71-69, Dongmin Kim (KOR) 71-70-67-69, Daijiro Izumida (JPN) 69-71-70-67, Taehoon Kim (KOR) 68-72-70-67, Kyungnam Kang (KOR) 72-67-69-69.
278 – Kosuke Hamamoto (THA) 72-69-68-69, Bio Kim (KOR) 68-66-75-69, Dongmin Lee (KOR) 69-69-72-68, Danthai Boonma (THA) 71-70-65-72.
279 – Ryuichi Oiwa (JPN) 72-68-69-70, Miguel Tabuena (PHI) 69-69-72-69, Mingyu Cho (KOR) 69-69-69-72, Tomoharu Otsuki (JPN) 68-69-69-73, Justin De Los Santos (PHI) 73-68-72-66, Todd Baek (USA) 69-71-66-73.
280 – Taichi Kho (HKG) 69-71-68-72, Brad Kennedy (AUS) 70-68-70-72, Junseok Lee (AUS) 67-72-72-69, Chan Shih-chang (TPE) 73-67-71-69, Sadom Kaewkanjana (THA) 70-71-71-68, Rattanon Wannasrichan (THA) 69-72-71-68, Jinjae Byun (KOR) 71-68-67-74, Taihei Sato (JPN) 68-73-72-67.
281 – Galam Jeon (KOR) 71-70-69-71, Seungbin Choi (KOR) 71-69-67-74, Suradit Yongcharoenchai (THA) 73-68-70-70, Doyeob Mun (KOR) 69-72-70-70, Ryo Katsumata (JPN) 72-69-71-69.
282 – Hanbyeol Kim (KOR) 69-69-71-73, Nitithorn Thippong (THA) 72-66-71-73, Chung Yoon (USA) 70-69-71-72, Shugo Imahira (JPN) 71-70-69-72, Taehee Lee (KOR) 69-69-75-69, Sungho Yun (KOR) 70-70-74-68, Sungkug Park (KOR) 71-69-76-66.
283 – Shintaro Kobayashi (JPN) 70-69-70-74, Minjun Kim (KOR) 67-73-70-73.
284 – Jaeho Kim (KOR) 70-69-72-73, Scott Hend (AUS) 69-68-74-73, Yuta Ikeda (JPN) 70-71-72-71, Junggon Hwang (KOR) 70-71-74-69.
285 – Heemin Chang (KOR) 68-72-75-70, Sarit Suwannarut (THA) 70-71-75-69.
286 – Yonggu Shin (CAN) 68-71-73-74.
287 – Aguri Iwasaki (JPN) 74-63-79-71.
289 – Veer Ahlawat (IND) 70-68-79-72.
290 – Brendan Jones (AUS) 71-70-74-75.