No Korean player has won the Ballantine’s Championship since the tournament’s inception in 2008, but Bae Sang-moon and KT Kim are determined to change that record this week.
The pair will spearhead the home challenge at Blackstone Golf Club in Icheon, near the capital city Seoul, along with former US PGA Champion YE Yang.
After starting with an opening round of 75 last year, Sang-moon carded subsequent scores of 68, 69 and 70 to finish in a share of 20th position, and he is hoping to improve on that performance and become the first homegrown player to win the coveted Ballantine’s Championship title.
“Last year the first round was pretty bad and I had some caution in the remaining three rounds,” he said. “So this time around, I’m going to put a lot of concentration and focus on the first round.
“I have a new caddie and a new coach, so I think that everything is going in the right direction.
“I know that my score and my results have yet to prove those new changes, but I am pretty much satisfied with my overall performance and how I’ve played.
“There is still some room for improvement. I still need to reflect those changes in my scores. But I’m satisfied with the process, and I am pretty satisfied with my long game and short game. I’m pretty confident.”
Sang-moon is grouped with Stephen Gallacher, winner of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, and former Ryder Cup player Paul Casey for the first two rounds, while compatriot Kim is paired with Swede Alexander Noren and South African Louis Oosthuizen, the World Number Seven who is the highest-ranked player in the field.
Kim finished tied tenth in the Ballantine’s Championship two years ago, when Blackstone Golf Club hosted the event for the first time, and he is hopeful that he can challenge for silverware this week.
He said: “I’ve taken part in the Ballantine’s Championship six times in a row, but regrettably, my scores and my play have not been that good.
“However, this time around, I like the Blackstone course, so I’m going to do my best so that I can record the best score out of those six years.”
He added: “I think that we have a lot of Korean players who can win the trophy. However, the winds are very strong around this golf course. The European players are really much more exposed to these conditions and they are really good at overcoming those difficulties.
“The course also has undulating greens and the European players are much more exposed to those green conditions. So, again, I think that if we can overcome those putting conditions and wind conditions, I think that we can score better this time around.
“I really want to win that trophy and I also hope that other Korean players can perform well.”