Kim Bi-O holds nerve at the last to secure first Asian Tour title
Kim Bi-O thrilled huge home crowds to win his maiden Asian Tour title at the Maekyung Open on Sunday, coming home two shots clear of fellow South Korean Cho Mung-yu.
Starting the final day with a four-shot cushion at Namseoul Country Club and still three shots clear on the 18th tee, Kim had to withstand a scare when he carved his drive deep into trees.
But he coolly prevented disaster by threading a path back into play from a pile of leaves and securing a bogey five and a round of one-over-par 72 to lift the trophy for the second time.
Cho, joint second overnight, had drawn level with Kim after seven, thanks to three birdies in four holes. But a bogey then double-bogey at the eighth and ninth derailed his challenge.
Cho eventually carded a one-under 70 to finish solo second, while Moon Kyung-jun shot a 67, the round of the day, to be a stroke further back in third.
A decade ago, Kim won the Maekyung Open at the same course as a 21-year-old when the tournament had been sanctioned by the now defunct OneAsia Tour.
"Today was quite tough and I was struggling on a few holes and lost concentration," said Kim. "But I'm really happy to win."
He conceded that he tried not to think about his big lead, all too aware that shots can be frittered away on the tight, undulating, tree-lined layout.
"I know Namseoul is a quite difficult course. So I tried not to think about having a four-shot lead," said Kim.
The 31-year-old was roared to victory by thousands of golf-starved fans who had been allowed into a tournament for only the second time since the pandemic began.
Kim's hiccup at the final hole had not been the only drama of his week -- he earlier had to come to the rescue when an official was taken ill.
As the final group began their third round on Saturday, a 20-year-old university student, who was handling one of the scoreboards, collapsed on the first tee as Kim was about to play.
Kim and a doctor who happened to be in the large crowd rushed to help before an ambulance was called and the student, Lee Woo-jun who suffers from anaemia, made a full recovery after being taken to hospital.
Kim's winner's cheque of $255,537 moves him to second in the Asian Tour order of merit, $57,338 behind American Sihwan Kim who has amassed $460,325 from the six tournaments played so far in the 2022 season.
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