Kang continues to woo Kolon Korea Open presented by ELORD

Kyungnam Kang made the most of his affinity for Woo Jeong Hills Country Club today taking the halfway lead in the Kolon Korea Open presented by ELORD.

The Korean, second here last year and the course record holder with four other players, played in the afternoon and shot his second four-under-par 67 for a two-round total of eight-under – an impressive tally on a difficult course.

It gave him a two-shot cushion over compatriot Minkyu Kim, the 2022 champion. Kim, out in the morning session, held the clubhouse lead for much of the day after returning a 65.

Korean Younghan Song (68) is a further two behind, while England’s Steve Lewton (71) is another shot back.

Kang carded an eight-under-par 63 here in 2006 and that is still the course record although a group of players, including Rickie Fowler in 2011, have matched it.
Minkyu Kim.

He made six birdies and two bogeys today and looked in complete control, especially when he made three successive birdies from the fifth.

“I played happily in the same group as Minkyu on the last day last year, so I will use that experience this weekend,” said Kang.

“I am hitting the ball really straight. I used to fade the ball but recently I have stopped putting so much spin on the ball, so it’s staying straight. It’s really helped me a lot with my approach shots.”

His second place finish here 12 months ago saw him secure one of the two places up for grabs in The Open. He went on to miss the cut in the game’s oldest Major but will be targeting another appearance this year as this week’s tournament is once again part of the Open Qualifying Series. Last year’s winner Steve Seungsu Han was the other player who made it through to The Open, but having missed the cut this week, with rounds of 82 and 72, there will be no repeat trip for him.

Kang added: “When I feel like giving up, I remember my experience at the British Open last year and I get my mind together. I want to win a berth again and get back there.”

Forty-one-year-old Kang is an 11-time winner on the Korean PGA Tour, has never won on the Asian Tour and is looking for his first win in Korea since 2021.

Judging on recent form in Korea – he has had six top 20s in his last seven starts – he’ll likely be in the running on Sunday.
Steve Lewton.

Kim’s performance so far is representative of his return to form.

He beat fellow Korean Mingyu Cho in a play-off at Woo Jeong Hills to win here two years ago but two months later he was in a car accident, the resulting injuries meant he was unable to play for several months.

He has been gradually working his way back since, winning on the Korean PGA Tour at the start of the month, in the Descente Korea Munsingwear Matchplay for just his second win on home soil, before a fine round today points to a player back to his best.

He said: “I played well today. It was a better score than I expected. I wasn’t hitting the ball well on the range, but once I got on the course, it worked out.”

Woo Jeong Hills is a notoriously demanding golf course with the championship committee setting it up with penal rough, narrow fairways and perilous putting surfaces but Kim was one of the few players to rise to the challenge.

He started on 10 and made the turn in one under with three birdies and two bogeys but then toured the second half in four under with four birdies.
Jang Jubin.

“When I was talking with other players before the tournament, they said that the difficulty level was getting easier, but the course is still difficult … the set-up, the flagstick positions, etc,” said Kim, who tied for fourth last year and who’s winning score in 2022 was four-under.

“The Korea Open is a big tournament; I think it’s right to play at a challenging golf course like Woo Jeong Hills. I think the challenging setting suits the event.”

Lewton hasn’t missed a cut this year and is playing some of the best golf of his career and will attempt to become the first Englishman to win Korea’s National Open.

“Didn’t play quite as well as yesterday, felt I had a chance to do better,” said Lewton.

“Got off to great start on front nine with eight pars and a birdie, which set me up but dropped a few on the second nine. Missed a few putts I should have made. It’s a tough golf course but I am well placed heading into the weekend”

Hong Kong’s Taichi Kho is starting to put together one of his best tournaments of the year. He fired a 67 and is two under in a tie for sixth with Korea’s Hongtaek Kim (68), winner of the GS Caltex Maekyung Open last month, and countryman Jang Jubin (72).

Two-time Korea Open winner Sangmoon Bae, the joint leader at the start of the day, fired a 74 and is tied on one under.

Total prizemoney for the event is KRW1,400,000,000 (approx. US$1.013 million).

Pictures courtesy of the Korean Golf Association.

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