International Series Korea: Kim Bi-o has dual target on his return to Jeju
- He chases the double of finishing top of both the Asian Tour Order of Merit and the Korean PGA Tour rankings
- Kim has ‘really good memories’ of Jeju after winning the SK Telecom Open on the island in June
South Korea’s Kim Bi-o says he has set himself the goal of finishing top of both the Asian Tour Order of Merit and the Korean PGA Tour rankings this season – with this week’s International Series Korea playing an important part in his ambitious plans.
And his bid for the unique double will be helped by the fact this week’s event is being played on Jeju Island – Korea’s famous holiday destination, where he has enjoyed success before.
He won the SK Telecom Open on the Korean PGA Tour in June there and although this week’s US$1.5 million event is being played at a different venue, Lotte Skyhill Country Club, he has high hopes for the week.
“It’s going to be a great week on Jeju Island and hopefully, I will have a good result,” Kim said.
“I have really good memories of being here in Jeju over the past few years. Of course, I won here recently, and this week is great because I am spending a lot of time with my family, which normally we can’t do as we are on the road.”
Kim will have his work cut out this week, and starts his title challenge alongside two golfers who have already won International Series events this season: Scott Vincent who won in England, and last week’s victor in Singapore, Nitithorn Thippong.
Hong Kong’s Taichi Kho, meanwhile, goes out in the last group of the day at 2.20pm (Hong Kong time), with Kang Tae-young and Kim Tae-ho.
Kim Bi-o is enjoying one of the finest seasons of his career having also won the GS Caltex Maekyung Open in May, which was his maiden win on the Asian Tour. He is currently in third place on the Asian Tour Merit list and fourth on Korea’s ranking.
He has actually finished top of the Korean ranking once before, in 2010, a year after he turned professional. That early success prompted him to head to the PGA Tour qualifying school at the end of 2010, when he hit the headlines by making it through at the tender age of 20. He lost his playing privileges there a year later before deciding to mainly focus on playing in Korea.
The 31-year-old says much of his success has been built on a desire to continually improve.
“Honestly speaking, I do get nervous and feel the pressure but that’s because I want to play better and better every week and improve myself,” he said. “I do put a lot of pressure on myself.”
Over the past month he has been working with Korean golf coach Kim Gyu-tae, who has also coached PGA Tour star and compatriot Im Sung-jae.
“I have had some issues with my putting the last month or so,” Kim Bi-o said. “I haven’t been making the putts that I am supposed to, but I am slowly climbing up the mountain. Hoping to see some good results this week.
“I have been having little pushy misses with my short ones. The clubface is a little open, which I have been trying to figure out with my coach [Kim]. We have just been working on my shoulder patterns – it’s been too roundy. It started just after I played in the Scottish Open.
“But I am really looking forward to this week and I feel like things are getting a lot better.”