What an incredible year it has been for Korean’s men’s golf. Since January, the number of Korean victories across numerous professional tours (excluding the KPGA Tour, which is another 10 victories!), has continued to amass consistently. When you factor in that Korea’s top ranked player, Byeong Hun An, has yet to pick up a win this year, (although it is only a matter of time until he wins again) with the fact that arguably Korea’s top player, Sang Moon Bae is halfway through his military service, the success of this year so far is even more impressive. 14 victories outside of Korea:
Asian Tour Q School Winner – Yikeun Chang
Singapore Open Winner – Younghan Song
Shenzen International Winner – Soomin Lee
Token Homemate Cup Winner – KT Kim
The Crowns Winner – KT Kim
Kansai Open Winner – Byung Min Cho
Mizuno Open Winner – KT Kim
Trophee Hassan II Winner – Jeunghun Wang
Mauritius Open Winner – Jeunghun Wang
ISPS Handa Global Cup Winner – Jun Won Park
Ping An Wanda Open Winner – Taewoo Kim
Wyndham Championship Winner – Si Woo Kim
Fujisankei Classic Winner – Min Gyu Cho
Putian Open- Taewoo Kim
Notable highlights of 2016: Younghan Song beating the then world number one Jordan Spieth by one stroke in Singapore. Soomin Lee’s maiden wire-to-wire victory was the first in a year on the European Tour. KT Kim’s remarkable run of tournaments in Japan and Korea in April/May: 1st – T2nd -1st – T3rd – 2nd – 1st. Jeunghun Wang becoming the first back to back winner on the European Tour since McIlory 2014. Siwoo Kim becoming the youngest winner on PGA Tour this year.
So who has been Korea’s top performer this year? You would think it has to be Jeunghun Wang, especially after picking up the European Tour Rookie of the Year award.
He has had an incredible year and is the inform Korean player at the moment. He will have his eyes firmly set on making his Presidents Cup debut in New York next year, which could have as many as 5 Koreans on the team, if their progress continues.
Most would agree that Wang has been the best Korean player this year, but for me, there’s no arguing the fact that Younghan Song has been the most consistent, and in my opinion is well on the way to becoming the country’s top player.
This is not just because he beat Jordan Spieth at the start of the year; he has backed this up with a string of solid performances throughout the year: 21 from 22 cuts made, only twice outside the top 40, (which was a very credible 56th at PGA Championship-his first major), 9 top 20 finishes (also tied 21st at WGC Bridgestone and ISPS Handa Cup), 6 top 10 finishes. I like to refer to him as the ‘Korean Padraig Harrington’ – consistent for a long period before eventually putting together a string of victories, including three Majors! This can also be said of Dustin Johnson, who broke his Major duck this year and it now seems likely he will win many more. Can Younghan become Korea’s next Major winner? Possibly, but there are many more top players here that can achieve this too. In Younghan’s case, I believe that his next victory will be the catalyst for his career and he has the potential to be a regular winner of the PGA Tour in the coming years-yep, he is that good! I give it 2-3 years and we will see the next Korean Major winner, quite possibly Song, Wang or one of the Kims (there’s two!), but also lets not forget that Sangmoon Bae will be back on Tour in August 2017.
This year has been a major boost for Korean men’s golf, which has been playing second fiddle to the women for many years. Now is the time to build on this, increase the amount of winners abroad, and help with the progression of the game here, which will hopefully, eventually lead to another Korean major winner and one day a world number one.