Joohyung Kim of Korea. Picture by Paul Lakatos/ SPORTFIVE/ Asian Tour.
Sentosa, Singapore, January 18: Korean Joohyung Kim has been one of the rising stars of Asian golf. The teen sensation who set alight the Classic Golf and Country alight in 2019 with his maiden win at the Panasonic Open India. In the time since he has continued to rise and last week moved into Top-100 of the world – a ranking that will open more doors for him.
The Singapore International: he won the tournament in a thrilling sudden-death finish, took over top spot on the Asian Tour Order of Merit, and moved into the top-100 on the Official World Golf Ranking.
But there is no time for the 19 year old to rest on his laurels as this week he competes in the SMBC Singapore Open, on The Serapong at Sentosa Golf Club – the final event of the Tour’s 2020-21 season.
“I’m still enjoying it,” said the powerfully built star.
“You know, I wish I could have enjoyed it a little bit longer, but it’s straight back to work. Obviously happy about that, but you know, just trying to concentrate on this week.”
He holed a testing 14-foot birdie putt on the first extra hole on Sunday on the Tampines Course’s at Tanah Merah Country Club to beat Thailand’s Rattanon Wannasrichan, and register his second victory on the Asian Tour.
He added: “To be honest, I felt kind of rusty. I came outside of quarantine and very cold in Korea, couldn’t play a lot of rounds. Just did what I had to do. And with the conditions being so tough I think it really suited my game pretty well. And I played very conservative, very smart and, you know, made a lot of putts. So, I was pretty surprised last week when I won.”
Kim leads the Merit list with earnings of US$399,428 but three players can catch him this week: Thailand’s Phachara Khongwatmai, Chan Shih-chang from Chinese-Taipei and American Trevor Simsby.
“I mean, the goal [this year] was to get at least one win and first week out, get one win and back inside the top 100 and number one on the Order of Merit. So, big step, but it’s a bigger step this week,” added the Korean, who is ranked 89th in the world.
Should he win the Merit title he will be the second youngest to do so after his compatriot Seungyul Noh, won it in 2010.
Kim has played the SMBC Singapore Open once before, when the tournament was last played in 2020, and came fourth – just a few months after his first Tour victory at the Panasonic Open India. That secured him a place in The Open but the pandemic prevented him from competing.
He played the Pro-Am this morning as part of his preparations for one of the most important weeks of his fledgling career.
“I mean, the conditions are so pure, where you can just take advantage when you can and play conservative when you can’t,” he said.
“So, I mean, some holes are just right next to the ocean. So, you got to really factor the wind there and play really smart, but when you have a chance, you know, you have a chance to take advantage. And the par fives are, you know, mostly all reachable so you try to make your score there and just try to score on the holes you can and play conservative when you can’t.”