Cheonan, Korea, September 11: Korea’s Lee Kyounghoon completed an authoritative wire-to-wire victory in the US$1.1 million Kolon Korea Open on Sunday, a final-round 68 seeing him retain the OneAsia title he won in equally commanding fashion last year.
He finished on 16-under-par 268 for a three-stroke victory over countryman Choi Jinho, who mounted a strong challenge on the front nine before three straight bogeys from the 10th derailed his glory bid.
Kang Kyungnam, looking to re-ignite his career after serving his mandatory military service between 2013 and 2105, claimed third spot, a shot behind Choi, after closing with a level-par 71.
The 25-year-old Lee has played on the Web.com Tour in the United States this season and came into the Kolon Korea Open in good form after finishing fourth in the Portland Open.
That was not good enough, however, to secure a place in the Web.com Finals and retaining his home Open will ease the pain of missing out on a chance to win a US PGA Tour card.
Lee started the round slowly and 2015 OneAsia Order of Merit runner-up Choi, who was two strokes behind after the third round, drew level with him after birdies at the first and fourth holes.
The contest then turned into an engrossing matchplay duel between the duo, Lee turning on the after-burners and shooting four straight birdies from the par-five fifth hole with Choi picking up three shots in the same stretch.
Lee, a renowned front runner with two wins on the Japan Golf Tour to his credit, was a stroke ahead at the halfway point before Choi’s challenge crumbled after the turn with three bogeys on the trot.
A birdie on the 15th hole stretched Lee’s lead to five strokes before a couple of late hiccups cut the margin of victory to three shots, one less than in 2015 when he beat Kim Meenwhee by four strokes.
Thailand’s Namchok Tantipokhakul shot a 69 to finish as the highest-placed overseas challenger in equal 12th spot, 11 shots behind Lee.
Namchok’s countryman Rattanon Wannasrichan climbed the leaderboard with three birdies on his front nine before slipping back with a double bogey and three bogeys after the turn. He signed for a 73 which saw him tie for 16th place with Australia’s Jamie Arnold, the winner of the OneAsia Qualifying School in March who closed with a 72.
This year sees the 59th staging of the Kolon Korea Open and the highly prized title has been one in the past by Americans Rickie Fowler (2011) and John Daly (2003), Vijay Singh from Fiji (2007), Spain’s Sergio Garcia (2002) and Korean great K.J. Choi (1996 and 1999).