Kim Tae-ho takes solo lead at Woori Championship as Im Sung-jae withdraws
Kim Tae-ho took the lead on the first day of the inaugural Woori Financial Group Championship on Thursday, with PGA star and tournament favorite Im Sung-jae forced to withdraw after testing positive for Covid-19.
Kim Tae-ho hit five-under, 67, at Ferrum Country Club in Yeoju, Gyeonggi to take a solo lead with an eagle, four birdies and one bogey. Lee Sang-yeop, Kang Yun-seok, Choi Min-chel and Kim Min-kyu share second place on four-under, 68.
Im, the highest ranked Korean golfer at No. 20 in the world, had flown back to Korea specifically to take part in the Woori Financial Group Championship, the first time in two years and seven months he’s joined a KPGA event.
However, the Tour announced on Thursday morning that Im had tested positive for Covid-19 and would have to withdraw from the event. He was scheduled to start the first round at 11:30 a.m., but tested positive before teeing off.
Im’s Covid-19 confirmation will likely also disrupt his PGA season. Following the completion of the Woori Financial Group Championship, Im was scheduled to immediately fly back to the United States to rejoin the PGA Tour for the PGA Championship starting May 20, although that he’ll actually be fit to fly now seems unlikely.
While Im failed to compete, the other big celebrity at the Woori Financial Group Championship did get to play all 18 holes — although he might wish he didn’t.
Former major league baseball pitcher Park Chan-ho finished his tournament in dead last place at 24-over, 96.
Park Chan-ho has some experience in golf tournaments, having won the Huons Elravie Celebrity Pro-Am with professional golfer Kim Young-woong and ranking first in the long drive event, hitting 331 yards, in 2018. This is his fifth time competing at a KPGA event.
Park Chan-ho competed in the preliminary rounds of three Srixon Tour — the lower-tier tour underneath the KPGA — events last March and April, tying for 121st in the first event, tying for 84th in the second and tying for 58th in the third.
He failed to make the cut last April at the KPGA Gunsan Open and looks to be going the same way this year.
The KPGA’s biggest names also didn’t fare well on the first day of the tournament. Two of this season's KPGA champions, Kim Bio and Park Sang-hyun, were considered serious contenders going into the event, but are left with some serious work to do after the first round.
Kim Bio finished the first round with two over, while Park Sang-hyun trailed with three over. As of press time, that was good enough to see Kim Bio tie for 76th and Park Sang-hyun tie for 91st.
The Woori Financial Group Championship continues with the second round teeing off on Friday morning.
BY JIM BULLEY [email@example.com]