20 June 2019: Local hotshot Junggon Hwang delivered a flawless display of golf as he signed for a solid six-under-par 65 to grab the opening round lead at the 62nd Kolon Korea Open Golf Championship on Thursday. Indian golfers had a difficult day – S Chikkarangappa was the best placed Indian at 2-over 73, Rahil Gangjee, Viraj Madappa and Khalin Joshi much further down the order.
The 27-year-old Hwang, who has recently shed off 10 kilograms, fired six birdies to lead by one shot over compatriot Daehyun Kim, who also returned with a bogey-free round at the KRW 1,200 million (approximately US$1,067,000) event.
Hwang, a three-time winner on the Japan Golf Tour and a two-time champion on the Korean Tour, is thrilled to get off to a strong start as he chases for a first victory on the Asian Tour and a coveted spot at The Open where he made his Major debut in 2011.
Young Thai Phachara Khongwatmai fired six birdies against two bogeys to sit in third place alongside Korea’s Innchoon Hwang and Qualifying School graduate Kyongjun Moon at the event co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour and Korea Golf Association (KGA).
Korean American Kevin Na, the highest-ranked player in the 144-man field this week, posted a 68 to share sixth place with local hopeful Dongkyu Jang while defending champion Minchel Choi battled to a 73 to tie in 58th place at the Woo Jeong Hills Country Club.
Asian Tour Order of Merit leader Scott Hend of Australia signed for a 74 in the event which is part of The Open Qualifying Series. Two spots will be awarded to the leading two players (not otherwise exempt) finishing in the top-eight and ties.
Did you know?
- Junggon Hwang started playing golf when he was 13 and turned professional at the age of 17 in 2009.
- In 2011, Hwang made his Major debut at The Open, thanks to his victory at the Gateway to The Open Mizuno Open, which was part of The Open Qualifying Series.
- Hwang is now a three-time winner on the Japan Golf Tour (2011 Gateway to The Open Mizuno Open, 2012 and 2015 Casio Open) and a two-time champion on the Korean Tour (2014 Mail Dairies and 2017 KPGA Championship).
- Hwang enjoyed two joint runner-up finishes on the Asian Tour in Japan and Korea in 2018.
- Hwang is ranked 193rd on the latest Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR).
- Hwang also teed up at the U.S. Open back in 2013.
- Kyongjun Moon earned his first Asian Tour card at the Qualifying School last December after finishing in tied-35th place to barely make the cut-off mark.
- Moon, 36, enjoyed a tied-third place at the Kolon Korea Open last year, thanks to an eagle on the last hole 18th which helped him sign for a closing 66.
- Moon made an eagle on the same hole in his round of 67 today. He holed out for an eagle with a brilliant chip-in from about 25 yards.
- Kevin Na is the highest-ranked player in the talented 144-man field. He clinched his third PGA Tour title at the Charles Schwab Challenge three weeks ago and is sitting in a current 32nd place on the OWGR.
- Na started his career on the Asian Tour. In only nine tournaments in 2002, he had six top-10 finishes, including a win at the season-ending Volvo Masters of Asia.
- Na immigrated with his family to the United States when he was eight years old and he is now a naturalised American citizen.
- Phachara Khongwatmai enjoyed a tied-eighth place finish in Korea last month. It was his first top-10 result so far this season.
- Phachara became the youngest winner of a professional tournament when he won on home soil in July 2013 at the age of 14. Came into prominence when he won the 2015 PGM CCM Rahman Putra Championship to become the youngest ADT winner at the age of 15.
- Phachara finished a career-high third place on the Asian Tour Merit standings in 2017, thanks to four top-five finishes which include three runner-up results.