Longkou City, Shandong, China, June 5: Korean Kim Bi-o, one of the most exciting young golfers in the game, prevailed in a sudden-death play-off today to win the US$1 million Nanshan China Masters on OneAsia.
The 20-year-old clinically holed an eight foot birdie putt to close out New Zealand’s Michael Long on the third extra hole at Nanshan International Golf Club's Danling Cuiyuan Course.
Australians Craig Hancock and Scott Laycock were also in the playoff with the former going out on the second extra hole and the latter on the first.
Kim is making a name for himself competing as the youngest player on the US PGA Tour this season and he showed his class this week by becoming the youngest winner on OneAsia.
He started the day six behind third round leaders Long and Laycock but stormed through with a six-under-par 66 to finish on 10-under-par 278.
Long and Laycock both fired 72 while Hancock shot 71.
“I was very nervous at the start of the playoff. My heart was beating so fast but I told myself to calm down and relax and enjoy it. If you get too pumped up then you get too nervous and make mistakes,” said Bi-o.
He nailed eight birdies and made two bogeys in his final round and finished with birdies on 16 and 18 to set the mark for the rest of the field.
The par-four 18th was used for the playoff and on their first visit there he nearly bowed out when his tee shot found a fairway bunker. He hit his second 20 yards short of the green and made a brilliant up and down by holing a 12 foot par putt.
On the second extra hole he missed a 20 foot birdie putt to win but made no mistake the next time.
“It has been a rough year because I have missed a lot of cuts in the States. I have not been happy about it but I know that it is going to be difficult because it is golf at the very highest level. I have just got to be patient and the win this week is a massive confidence booster. I am just a rookie and have a lot to learn but I know I love winning golf tournaments,” added Bi-o.
Emboldened by his performances on OneAsia last year when he finished 12th on the Order of Merit, he tested himself at the US PGA Tour’s final Q-school. He won his card after tying for 11th place to become the youngest player to ever make it through all three stages of Qualifying School at age 20.
In 2011 he has won US$224,536 in 14 events on the US PGA Tour and on his return to OneAsia last month he placed 12th at the SK Telecom Open on home soil.
Long, who led after the second round, looked to have blown his chance when he dropped a shot on the 16th but he holed a brilliant 30 foot birdie putt from off the back of the green on the 72nd hole to make the play-off. He was a picture of consistency in the playoff but succumbed to the genius of young Kim.
It would have been a fairytale victory as eight months ago he cut back his playing schedule and started work as the marketing manager for a signage company in Perth. He was tired of the travelling after 20 years as a professional.
“I kind of felt it might be my week after making that birdie putt on the last and I played well in the playoff. In the end it was just not to be but I am still thrilled with the week,” said Long.
China’s Zhang Xinjun and Andre Stolz from Australia, winner of the Indonesian PGA Championship earlier this year, finished one shot shy of the playoff after they both shot 70. It was a remarkable performance by Zhang to finish as the leading player from the mainland. The 23-year-old was first introduced to golf when he was a security guard at a golf club in China where he went on to become a caddie.
His compatriot Li Haotong also completed a brilliant week by closing with a 74. The 15-year-old amateur ended in a tie for 25th place on three under and became the youngest player to make the cut on OneAsia.
Indonesian golfing prospect Rory Hie finished 22nd after rounds of 71 and 73 dropped him back from his tied 6th place after 2 rounds.
The next event on OneAsia is the US$1 million High 1 Open at High 1 Country Club in Korea from July 7 to 10.
Leading final round scores:
278 - Kim Bi-o (KOR) 74 67 71 66, Michael Long (NZL) 70 67 69 72, Craig Hancock (AUS) 74 67 66 71, Scott Laycock (AUS) 71 67 68 72
(Kim wins sudden-death play-off on third extra hole)
279 – Zhang Xinjun (CHN) 74 70 65 70, Andre Stolz (AUS) 70 68 71 70
280 – Jamie Arnold (AUS) 69 72 71 68, Anthony Summers (AUS) 71 69 69 71, Pavit Tangkamolprasert (THA) 71 69 69 71, Mitchell Brown (AUS) 71 70 68 71
281 – Aaron Townsend (AUS) 73 70 70 68, Kim Meen-whee (KOR) 74 69 69 69, James MaClean (AUS) 72 72 67 70, Wu Ashun (CHN) 68 75 66 72
282 – Michael Hendry (NZL) 73 69 70 70
283 – Leigh Deagan (CHN) 70 74 71 68, Daniel Beckman (AUS) 73 72 68 70, Ted Oh (KOR) 70 74 67 72, Terry Pilkadaris (AUS) 71 68 71 73, Leigh McKechnie (AUS) 67 74 69 73, Kim Dae-hyun (KOR) 69 71 69 74
284 – Rory Hie (INA) 71 69 71 73
285 – Liang Wenchong (AUS) 74 72 66 73, Li Haotong (a) (CHN) 70 71 70 74
289 – Kurt Barnes (AUS) 74 73 71 71, Thaworn Wiratchant (THA) 73 72 73 71
290 – Nicholas Fung (MAS) 73 73 71 73
291 – Jay Bayron (PHI) 74 72 73 72