In a nail-biting finish to the Kolon Korea Open, rising young Korean star Minkyu Kim defeated his compatriot Mingyu Cho in a three-hole play-off at Woo Jeong Hills Country Club.
Kim, aged 21, holed a 10-foot birdie putt on the imposing par-5 18th to finish the play-off, which was played over holes 16, 17 and 18, on even-par, while Cho made bogey to end one-over. It was a stunning turnaround as Kim started with a par and a bogey verses the two pars his opponent had made to put him in control.
It is the first time that Kim – who hit global headlines in 2018 when he claimed the D+D Real Czech Challenge on the Challenge Tour, becoming its youngest-ever winner at 17 years, 64 days – has won in Korea and his success was rewarded with an invite to The Open at St. Andrews in July. Cho’s consolation prize is also a place in the elite field for the game’s oldest Major.
Kim began the day three behind the overnight leaders Cho and Korean Taehoon Ok but steadily worked his way through the field with a two-under-par 69 to set the clubhouse lead on four-under, which included a bogey on the last.
Korean Hyungjoon Lee, playing in the penultimate group, look set to surpass that total and most likely win the tournament when he was five-under playing 18 but added to the drama of the day when he finished with a double bogey after finding out-of-bounds.
“I have come close to winning before and I wondered if I would ever win. I felt good on the back nine and started to feel I had a chance. Straight after I won, I thought of my father; I have to thank him for this." - Minkyu Kim.
Thirty-three-year-old Cho then had a chance to win the 64th staging of Korea’s national Open in normal time with a 20-foot birdie putt on 18 but his attempt narrowly missed, and he signed for a 72 to send the event in over time.
“I can’t believe I have actually won,” said Kim, who has posted seven top-10s in his last 10 starts.
“I have come close to winning before and I wondered if I would ever win. I felt good on the back nine and started to feel I had a chance. Straight after I won, I thought of my father; I have to thank him for this. My golf is just beginning.”
On the final play-off hole Cho hit an errant drive which forced him to punch his ball back into play while Kim assumed control after hitting his second over the green. Cho’s third found the edge of the green from where he played a poor chip to 25 feet. He proceeded to miss that while Kim got up and down for the most important birdie of his career.
Said Cho: “[Winning] is a difficult task. I think it was a good day, and I will move on. I am now planning to go and play in Europe for the first time, where, I am sure, I'll learn a lot.”
American Jarin Todd closed with a 70 to tie for third with Lee, who returned a 71, one shot short of the play-off.
“I made a few mistakes on the back nine,” said Todd.
“Those holes are playing pretty tough. Missed on the wrong spots, paid for it. But yeah, I would have taken a top-five finish at the start of the week just because this course doesn't really suit me. I'm happy with the result.”
Defending champion Junseok Lee was the best of the Australian contingent finishing in a share of fifth, two shots out of the play-off.