Sans Fowler, local stars to vie for Korea Open title

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Sans Fowler, local stars to vie for Korea Open title

Minus the defending champion from the U.S., homegrown stars will vie for Korea’s national golf championship this week.

The 55th Kolon Korea Open will tee off Thursday at Woojeong Hills Country Club in Cheonan, South Chungcheong, about 90 kilometers (56 miles) south of Seoul. The winner’s paycheck will be 300 million won ($270,000), the largest offered at a golf tournament held in Korea.

Defending champion Rickie Fowler won’t play on the par-71, 7,225-yard layout this year because of back problems. He informed the tournament organizers of his withdrawal last week, saying his doctors had instructed him to avoid international travel and any tournament play.

Without Fowler, other former Korea Open winners are likely to contend for this year’s title.

Yang Yong-eun, the 2009 PGA Championship winner, is one of three players this week with two Korea Open titles. Best known for edging then-world No. 1 Tiger Woods in the final round to capture the 2009 PGA Championship, Yang won his first Korea Open in 2006 and overcame a 10-shot final round deficit to take the national title in 2010.

Yang has arrived in Korea in good form, after finishing runner-up in a playoff at the Nanshan China Masters on the OneAsia Tour last weekend.

“I haven’t played well on the PGA Tour this year, but I think I am getting my groove back after the close-call last weekend,” Yang said at a pre-tournament press conference here Tuesday. He posted no top-10 finishes in 20 PGA Tour starts this year with seven missed cuts.

“I’ve always done well at Woojeong Hills, and I will try to build on those fond memories and turn around my season this week,” he added.

Yang pointed to his flying right elbow on the backswing as the main cause of his season-long woes. He said once he lost his balance on the swing, it also affected his putting.

The 40-year-old said he has fixed his issues, and it has already begun to pay dividends.

“For last week, I shortened my swing and it worked out well,” he said. “I will stick to my new swing for the time being and will try to keep my right elbow close to the body.”

Two others in the field have won the Korea Open twice. Bae Sang-moon, 26, was the back-to-back champion in 2008 and 2009. Kim Dae-sub remains the only amateur champion of the Korea Open, having lifted the trophy in 1998 and 2001.


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