Hugely talented Kim Kyungtae will start as raging favourite for this week’s GS Caltex Maekyung Open – the second event on the 2016 OneAsia schedule – after clocking up his seventh win in 11 months in Japan on Sunday.
The Korean beat Daisuke Kataoka of Japan in a playoff at The Crowns for his sixth title since winning the Singha Corporation Thailand Open on OneAsia last June.
A former top-20 player, Kim has rediscovered his form after a period in the doldrums and now sets his sights on a third victory in the GS Caltex Maekyung Open from May 5-8.
He triumphed five times in 2015 and has won twice and finished second in his last three starts on the Japan Golf Tour. His latest victory saw him climb 12 places in the Official World Golf Ranking to number 48.
The notoriously tricky layout at Namseoul Country Club holds little terror for the accomplished Kim having won the title at the venue in 2007 and 2011 and finishing runner up in 2010.
Among his likely challengers are young guns Lee Soomin, who recorded his breakthrough victory at the Shenzhen International on the European Tour two weeks ago, and Wang Jeunghun, runner up to Kim at the Singha Corporation Thailand Open last year.
The 22 year old Lee showed his potential on OneAsia in 2015 when he tied for 13th spot at the GS Caltex Maekyung Open and finished runner-up at the SK Telecom Open. He ended the season in sixth place on the Order of Merit.
Wang, 20, is still waiting for his first win which form suggests will come sooner rather than later. He was third on the OneAsia moneylist in 2015 with winnings of US$200,746 and ninth on the Asian Tour Order of Merit.
He has made a fast start to 2016 with top-10 finishes at the SMBC Singapore Open and Leopalace 21 Myanmar Open and a tie for second spot at the Hero Indian Open.
Another rising star tipped to do well is Thailand’s Phachara Kwongwatmai, who made headlines worldwide when, as a 14 year old amateur, he became the youngest player ever to win a professional event when he triumphed at the Singha Hua Hin Open on the ASEAN PGA Tour in 2013.
Phachara turned professional shortly after his victory in the Singha Hua Hin Open and the 16 year old has won five more times on secondary Tours, his latest victory coming at the Singha Esan Open on the ASEAN PGA Tour last month.
He will have his first taste of a Major tournament in The Open at Royal Troon in July after qualifying by finishing sixth in the Thailand Golf Championship last December.
OneAsia number one Moon Kyongjun of Korea is the defending champion and the elite field includes countrymen Choi Jinho, the 2015 SK Telecom Open winner who finished second to Moon in the moneylist, and Kim Bio, the 2012 GS Caltex Maekyung Open champion.
Also in the line up are Korea’s Song Younghan, who will be looking to recreate the form which saw him pip then world number one Jordan Spieth to the title at the SMBC Singapore Open in January, and Australia’s Steve Jeffress, who won the Fiji International in 2014.