Koreans on PGA Tour ready for Sony Open

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Koreans on PGA Tour ready for Sony Open

Korean golfers will look for their first win of this year’s U.S. PGA Tour when the Sony Open starts its four-day run today at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu, Hawaii.

The PGA season officially began with the Hyundai Tournament of Champions last week, which American Steve Stricker claimed with a 23-under 269. But since only 28 golfers who had at least one victory last season were able to take part in the tournament, the Sony Open will be the first full Tour event with some 140 golfers.

For the Sony Open, a total of four Korean golfers will compete, led by veteran Choi Kyoung-ju, better known as K.J. Choi, on the PGA Tour.

Choi, 41, is off to good start this season, having tied for fifth at the PGA season opener. In fact, the Tour Web site named Choi No. 2 in its “power rankings” for the Sony Open, citing the Korean’s victory in the 2008 event and four other top-15 Sony Open finishes.

“I didn’t have good shots in the first two rounds of the season opener because of allergies, but I’m getting my condition back and I think I can get a good result at the Sony Open,” Choi was quoted as saying by Yonhap News Agency. “I think the key will be how to play against the wind coming from the sea.”

Choi, who is ranked No. 14 in the world, will begin his first round with Japanese prodigy Ryo Ishikawa and American Webb Simpson, who was last season’s second-best prize money earner in the PGA behind world No. 1 Luke Donald.

While Choi is looking for his ninth PGA Tour win, Bae Sang-moon and Noh Seung-yul will make their debuts as full-time PGA members after earning their tour cards through the qualifying school last December.

Bae, last season’s top prize money earner of the Japan Golf Tour Organization (JGTO), played in this event in 2009 as an invitational player, but failed to make the cut.

“I’m confident in coping with the windy weather, but it’s difficult to play the short game because of grass near the putting green,” Bae said.

Noh, 20, is the youngest ever golfer to win the Asian Tour money title in 2010 and will introduce his long drive shots that exceed 300 yards to PGA fans.

Kang Sung-hoon, who is in his sophomore year on the PGA Tour, will also feature in the Sony Open.

Three Korean-Americans - Kevin Na, Richard H. Lee and John Huh are also ready to claim their first title of the season, along with Danny Lee, a New Zealander of Korean descent. Na, who captured his first PGA career victory last October, is considered as top contender for the trophy.

By Joo Kyung-don [kjoo@joongang.co.kr]
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