SINGAPORE — This week's SMBC Singapore Open golf tournament is the final event of the 2020/21 Asian Tour season, and will crown the winning golfer atop the Asian Tour Order of Merit.
All eyes are therefore on the Order of Merit leader, who took over the top spot just last week after winning The Singapore International at Tanah Merah Country Club - South Korea's Kim Joo-hyung.
The 19-year-old leads the Merit list with earnings of US$399,428 (S$539,593), but three players can catch him this week: Thailand’s Phachara Khongwatmai, Chan Shih-chang from Taiwan and American Trevor Simsby.
Victory at the US$1.25 million Singapore Open at Sentosa Golf Club will mean Kim becomes the second-youngest golfer to win the Order of Merit after compatriot Noh Seung-yul in 2010, and he admits that he has not had much time to savour last week's tournament win.
"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 said.
"The goal coming to Singapore was to get at least one win and to get it in the first week was a big step. But it's a bigger step this week."
Back in the top 100 world rankings
Kim won The Singapore International with a tough 14-foot birdie putt in the first sudden-death playoff hole against Thailand's Rattanon Wannasrichan on Sunday (16 January) for his second victory on the Asian Tour.
The victory also moved him back into the top 100 in world rankings at No.89, but the Korean admitted that he was surprised at his victory.
“To be honest, I felt kind of rusty. I came outside of quarantine and as it was very cold in Korea, I couldn’t play a lot of rounds," he said.
"With the conditions being so tough (last week), I think it really suited my game pretty well. I played very conservative and made a lot of putts. So, I was pretty surprised last week when I won.”
The Singapore Open will also serve as part of the qualifying series for this year's British Open, and Kim is eager to make the cut, as he was meant to play at last year's Open but did not get his second COVID-19 vaccine shot in time to compete.
"Missing out has been a big motivation factor for me. It's the 150th Open this year and I really want to be there," he said.
Record number of Singapore golfers at Open
A record total of 20 Singapore golfers - including seven amateurs - will compete in this year's Open, hoping to become the first Singaporean to claim the title.
They include Abdul Hadi, winner of the Singapore Invitational Pro-Series; Koh Deng Shan the leading local player at The Singapore International; Mardan Mamat, a five-time Asian Tour winner; Singapore Open Amateur champion Ryan Ang; Jesse Yap; and Mitchell Slorach.
The SMBC Singapore Open will be held at Sentosa Golf Club from Thursday to Sunday. Top golfers such as England's Paul Casey will be testing their skills against the imposing Serapong Course.
Due to COVID-19 safe management measures, no spectators are allowed on the course during the tournament.
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