Singapore International : Joohyung Kim Tour number one after play-off drama

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Joohyung Kim claimed The Singapore International today in a gripping sudden-death play-off against Thailand’s Rattanon Wannasrichan at Tanah Merah Country Club.

Korea’s 19-year-old prodigious talent holed a pressure-packed 14-foot birdie putt on the first extra hole, on the Tampines Course’s daunting par-five 18th, before Rattanon missed his birdie attempt from eight feet.

The victory also saw Kim, who earned a cheque for US$180,000, overtake Australian Wade Ormsby on the Asian Tour Order of Merit with one more event remaining this season, next week’s SMBC Singapore Open.

Kim and Rattanon, playing together in the final pairing, had finished the tournament tied on four under, after Kim closed with a 70 and Rattanon 72.

Joohyung Kim of Korea [Photo credit: Paul Lakatos/ Asian Tour]
Joohyung Kim of Korea [Photo credit: Paul Lakatos/ Asian Tour]

Thailand’s amateur star Ratchanon Chantananuwat, aged just 14 years old, was in contention for much of the day, making it a battle of the teenagers, took sole possession of third when he returned a 69 to finish two shots shy of the play-off.

For the fourth day in a row, strong winds swept the challenging Tampines Course, but Kim handled conditions impressively showing maturity beyond his years.

This was his second success on the Asian Tour, following his win in the 2019 Panasonic Open in India and when asked which win was the hardest, he said: “Has to be this one. Just because it’s a tough golf course you know, all the players played their heart out. I’m just very lucky to be on top. It was a grind today. I think it was a lot harder than the first one but definitely glad I finished on top.”

He had looked to be on course to take the title in more comfortable fashion and held a one-shot lead playing the final hole in normal time, but Rattanon made an eight-foot birdie after a brilliant chip from behind the green while the Korean took two to get out of the greenside bunker, after a difficult lie for his third, before making a brave par putt from three feet to force the tournament into a sudden-death play-off.

It was a remarkable turn of events as the Korean was two ahead with two to play but found trouble with his second shot on 17. He pushed his approach right into a penalty area next to a lake, took a drop, chipped to 15 feet and bravely made a 15 footer for bogey.

“To be honest, I was walking down the fairway on that shot [on 17], to that pin. I thought I had this under control and just didn’t play safe enough,” said Kim.

“I played aggressive the whole day and I felt like sticking to the game plan was the right choice. I took the longer club and just got lazy on it, leaked it right but had a great up and down, you know, I just told myself to give myself a chance and yeah, it all worked out.”

Rattanon was also in trouble on 17 but made a brilliant up and down from the greenside bunker for par before the drama unfolded on the last.

He was also trying to win his second title on Tour, after his success in the 2017 Thailand Open, and had held the lead after the first and second days.

Ratchanon, better known as “TK”, was attempting to become the youngest winner on one of the world’s main Tours, aged 14 years, three months, four days.

He would have bettered the mark set by his countrywoman Atthaya Thitikul, who won the 2017 Ladies European Thailand Open when she was 14 years, four months, 19 days.

However, it was not meant to be as despite going out in five-under-par 31, he came back in three over which included a double on 17.

“People will look at those scores online, see those dropped shots, and think I played badly but I didn’t. I was trying so hard and playing well,” said the youngster, who made a 12 footer for birdie on 18.