Competition likely to be fierce at this year's Jeju Masters
After a two-week break, the KLPGA Tour will finally be back in action with the Jeju Samdasoo Masters at Saint Four Golf & Resort starting Thursday.
With the field of 132 players, the tournament will be played in a 72-hole format with the cut after the first 36 holes. After the first two rounds, the players ranked above or tied for 60th will advance to the third and fourth round. The tournament has a total prize pot of 800 million won ($670,000), of which 160 million won will go to the champion.
The first two rounds of the tournament will be played at 6,500 yards, while the third and fourth rounds will be played at 6,395 yards.
This is the seventh edition of the tournament and this year's lineup is considered one of the most competitive.
The tournament is likely to attract fans watching from around the world as it features not only the KLPGA Tour players, but also a number of LPGA and JLPGA players. As the majority of the Korean golfers who play on the LPGA Tour are still in Korea, this week's tournament features a number a big-name golfers, including Park In-bee and the top ranked Ko Jin-young.
Current World No. 1 Ko, who has previously competed in two KLPGA Tour events this season, is hoping to pick up her first win of the season this weekend. Ko won the tournament back in 2017.
“Back at the Korea women's open I wasn't playing at 100 percent, so I had some disappointments,” Ko said. “During the break, I worked on my swing and other technical areas that I struggled in. At this tournament, I’m going to focus as much as I can and play as hard as I can.”
But it’s not only Ko that’s competing. After a long break, former world No. 1 Park is finally back in action and will make her first appearance on the KLPGA Tour this season. Before the LPGA Tour halted its season, which will resume on Friday, Park got off to a strong start by picking up her 20th career win on the LPGA Tour at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open in February.
Along with Park, Ryu So-yeon, who recently picked up a win at the 34th Kia Motors Korea Women's Open, will also be looking for her second trophy of the season.
The JLPGA Tour’s top Korean players like Lee Min-young and Bae Seon-woo will be competing as well.
In addition to the LPGA and JLPGA Tour players, the field is expected to be more competitive as Choi Hye-jin, who swept the KLPGA Tour’s year-ending awards last season, Lim Hee-jeong, who picked up three wins in her rookie season last year, and a lot more players will be entering the tournament seeking their first win of the season.
Last season as a non-KLPGA Tour member, Ryu Hae-ran picked up a surprise victory at the Jeju Samdasoo Masters and she enters the tournament once again to defend her title, this time as a rookie on the tour. Looking at Ryu’s performance this season, she is considered one of the most consistent players, making the cut at every tournament she has competed at so far. She is currently ranked first in the KLPGA Tours’ Rookie of the Year standing, earning 785 points after competing in eight tournaments.
“I am honored for the opportunity to be able to defend my title as a rookie,” Ryu said. “I think this will be a good experience for me. By playing along with the world's best players, I will learn a lot. Just as I've been doing all the time, I'll set my goal to make the cut and then reset my goal depending on the situation after it.”
Aside from Ryu, Park Hyun-kyung will be competing this weekend, looking for her third win of the season. In the latest tournament, the IS Dongseo Busan Open, Park defeated Lim Hee-jeong in the sudden-death playoff to pick up her second win and become the first multi-winner of the season.
“After my second win, I've been focusing on fixing my swing balance,” Park said. “Since this is my first time playing at the Saint Four Golf & Resort, where the tournament is being held, I think course management will be the most important factor. If I can build on what I've been working on throughout the two-week break, then I believe that I will be able to see good results. Rather than setting my goal as winning, I'll set my goal as finishing in the top 10.”
LPGA Tour player Kim Hyo-joo will also be competing this weekend. This season, Kim finally picked up a long-awaited victory at the 10th Lotte Cantata Women’s Open, defeating fellow LPGA golfer Kim Sei-young in the sudden-death playoff.
The tournament will once again be played on an empty course, but fans will still be able to watch each round on the television. There is rain forecast in the area on Thursday, but the rest of the weekend is expected to be clear.
The first two rounds of the tournament will start from the first and the 10th hole, starting at 7 a.m.
BY KANG YOO-RIM [email@example.com]