Embarrassment of riches as Kang rewrites the record books
Kang Wook-soon displayed the sign of excellence to strike it rich in the US$500,000 Omega PGA Championship yesterday.
With a closing four-under-par 66 at the Clearwater Bay Golf & Country Club, the South Korean not only walked off with the booty, but also rewrote the Asian PGA record books. As well as becoming the first player to win back-to-back Omega Tour events, Kang joins Thai Boonchu Ruangkit as only the second man to capture four titles on the circuit that was inaugurated in 1995.
In taking the US$80,750 first prize yesterday, Kang provided a wonderful fillip for Asian golf by sweeping to the summit of the Omega Order of Merit standings, the first player to achieve the feat twice, having also topped the list in 1996.
Having kept his emotions in check throughout a remarkable fortnight for him, Kang finally let slip his guard with a clenched fist and a beaming smile as his curling birdie putt on the 18th green disappeared below ground.
'It's beyond my expectations,' said the 32-year-old, who had been sidelined through injury for two months prior to his triumph in last week's Perrier Hong Kong Open.
A lowly 65th in the merit standings a fortnight ago, his Fanling victory lifted him into seventh place. Thanks to his three-shot success at Clearwater Bay, where he led from wire-to-wire, he broke the hearts of the six men ahead of him, most notably US-based Englishman Ed Fryatt.
Nobody, however, could deny that Kang was a worthy champion, with eight consecutive sub-par rounds in Hong Kong. For those 144 holes, he was a combined 29 under par.
Three ahead at the start of play yesterday, Kang fired six birdies against two bogeys for a record-low tournament aggregate of 263, 17 under par. Although he appeared uncharacteristically edgy at times, his lead was never less than three, with playing partner Hsieh Chin-sheng of Taiwan, China's Zhang Lianwei and Boonchu unable to make inroads into his overnight advantage.
'I'd been comfortable all week, but suddenly before I teed-off I began to feel the pressure,' said Kang, who hit a poor three-iron at the first, but bravely got up and down from 30 yards short of the flag to save par.
Thanks to a 65, Hsieh took second place on 266, with American Eric Rustand third on 268 following a course record-equalling 62. A further shot back was Boonchu, who provided a grandstand finale with an eagle-three at the last for a 67. American Eric Meeks shared fifth spot with Zhang after the Chinese number one ran up a double-bogey seven at the 18th for a 68.
Hong Kong's Dominique Boulet thrilled the record Clearwater Bay galleries with a 63 to jump into a tie for 12th with four others, including compatriot Derek Fung.