Golf: After taming Tanah Merah, Kim Joo-hyung aims to subdue Sentosa

Victory at the Sentosa Golf Club will ensure he claims the Asian Tour Order of Merit. PHOTO: PAUL LAKATOS/ASIAN TOUR

SINGAPORE - Kim Joo-hyung enters this week's US$1.25 million (S$1.7 million) SMBC Singapore Open with the most precious of resource in professional sport - winning momentum.

The South Korean golfer has already lifted a trophy here, capturing the Singapore International last Sunday (Jan 16). But he is not done yet.

Victory at the Sentosa Golf Club will ensure he claims the Asian Tour Order of Merit and deliver a confidence boost as he targets more success in 2022.

Kim, 19, beat Rattanon Wannasrichan in a play-off at the Tanah Merah Country Club (TMCC) and said on Tuesday he was not feeling any mental fatigue from that grinding win. He added: "I wish I could have enjoyed it a little bit longer, but it's straight back to work. Obviously happy about that, but just trying to concentrate on this week.

"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."

Besides topping the money list - he leads with US$399,428 in prize money for the season, with Australian Wade Ormsby second on US$270,153 - the teenager is eyeing a spot at this year's British Open.

The Singapore Open is part of its qualifying series, with the leading four players who finish in the top 12 and ties at Sentosa - and who are not already exempt - to earn places at St Andrews, Scotland from July 14-17.

Kim was meant to play at last year's British Open but did not get his second Covid-19 vaccine shot in time to compete.

He said: "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 was one of only three players to post sub-par totals at the TMCC's Tampines Course and while Sentosa should be more forgiving, it will be no walk in the park. Recent works have meant some bunkers have increased by as much as 30 per cent, leading the club's general manager and director of agronomy Andy Johnston to describe them as looking "meaner".

Thai Ratchanon Chantananuwat, 14, finished a sensational third last week. He said of the Serapong Course: "It's really tough. I think wind will obviously also be a big factor this week."

Koh Deng Shan, who was the top local at joint-24th last week, picked out the front nine and holes No. 3, 5 and 6 as particularly treacherous while fellow Singaporean Abdul Hadi Uda Thith said patience was critical.

He noted: "The key is hitting fairways and duplicating a lot of long and mid irons into the greens. You want to find the middle of the green, get your par and take advantage of the par-fives."

While Kim, who had taken a month-long break in December, was surprised at how quickly his game went from rusty to reliable as he won the Singapore International, he knows the pressure has increased.

"I just have to keep my head down and focus on my shots. There are a lot of good players out there this week. But hopefully if I do that, on Sunday I'll be smiling again."

Asian Tour Order of Merit

1. Kim Joo-hyung (Kor), US$399,428

2. Wade Ormsby (Aus), US$270,153

3. Phachara Khongwatmai (Tha), US$253,320

4. Chan Shih-chang (Tpe), US$231,375

5. Trevor Simsby (USA), US$188,357

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