Out of the Rough: Korea Championship (2023)
Following the inaugural ISPS Handa Championship in Japan, the DP World Tour turns its attention to another inaugural event in the Korea Championship.
With a week before the DP World Tour returns to mainland Europe for the Italian Open, it continues to build its relationship with the professional Asian tours.
Much like last week’s ISPS Handa Championship with an effort to strengthen the relationship with the Japan Golf Tour Organisation, this week’s Korea Championship will be co-sanctioned with the Korean Tour.
Unlike last week’s event being the first DP World Tour event hosted on Japanese soil, the Tour has played in Korea seven different times, although, most recently, ten years ago.
Another similarity between last week’s event and this week’s event is that they are held at a Jack Nicklaus course. This week’s installment will be held at the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club in Incheon.
Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea in Incheon, South Korea plays as a Par 72 at 7,470 yards.
The course is described as a unique urban golf course that offers views of modern high-rise buildings along with the peaceful natural scenery of the west coast.
The course is actually made up of two nine hole loops called the Urban and the Links. Although named the Links, the nine-hole stretch is far from a links style golf course.
It was opened in 2010 and in its short life has hosted events such as the Songdo Championship on the Champions Tour in both 2010 and 2011, the Presidents Cup in 2015, the International Crown on the LPGA Tour in 2018 and the Genesis Championship on the Korean Tour in 2017.
The course is rather wide open. The fairways are wide and forgiving.
It does play on the longer side at just shy of 7,500 yards and with the wide and generous fairways, expect those long off the tee to get a leg up.
The bentgrass greens are generous and with a combination of the ease off the tee, we can expect some low scores this week - weather permitting.
Water is in play on 11 of the holes this week and is much more prevalent on the back nine. However, with the width of the fairways they won’t offer much of a challenge. That is, unless the weather gets involved.
Added to the line of defense this week are an abundance of sand bunkers that golfers will have to navigate.
The winning score at this course in six editions of the Genesis Championship has ranged from -6 to -18.
A handful of Ryder Cup hopefuls headline this week’s field in Korea with names such as Robert MacIntyre, Guido Migliozzi, Rasmus Hojgaard and Jordan Smith need big weeks if they hope to make the team and head to Italy later this year.
Poland’s Adrian Meronk too joins the list of favorites this week as he rejoins the DP World Tour after splitting his time with the PGA Tour this season.
Meronk, the first Polish born golfer to win on the DP World Tour, won twice in 2022 and has played some decent golf on the PGA Tour as well. He placed 14th at the Honda Classic and 45th at the Genesis Invitational on the PGA Tour this season.
Home favorites this week include South Korea’s own Wang Jeunghun who has won three times on the DP World Tour and the KPGA’s 2022 Genesis Point Award winner Kim Yeongsu.
Kim comes with a proven track record here as he won the Genesis Championship a year ago at this very same golf course on the KPGA.
Wang has not played in a professional tournament on home soil since 2020. Wang is the youngest back-to-back DP World Tour winner when he won the Trophée Hassan II in Morocco and the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open in 2016.
Wang too is in some of the best form of anyone on the DP World Tour. After returning to the tour following a period of military service he has recorded two top tens, including a T3rd at the Singapore Classic in February.
There are also multiple similarities between last week’s event in Japan and this week’s tournament in South Korea.
They are both held at Jack Nicklaus courses. We saw this earlier this year in South Africa with the SDC Championship and the Jonsson Workwear Open. There were multiple golfers who had strong showings at both events.
Along with the return after a near month-long hiatus of the Tour, those who showed well last week will look sharper than those who didn’t.
We’ll see a large KPGA representation this week, just as we saw of the Japan Golf Tour Organisation a week ago. The KPGA’s best will get to put their skills to the test against some of the world’s best as well.
There is a strong chance for precipitation to come into play this week on Friday and Saturday. As of the time of writing this, Friday features a 60-percent chance as Saturday holds a 50-percent chance. Highs will range from the low to mid 60’s across all four days as well. As previously mentioned, the weather, specifically the wind, will play a factor when it comes to Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea. Winds are set to peak at 18 miles-per-hour on Saturday to go along with the rain. Sunday is calling for 16 miles-per-hour as Friday calls for 13 miles-per-hour and Thursday, being arguably the best day of all four, is expected to see winds at 11 miles-per-hour.
Sand Saves %
Birdie or Better
Par 5 Scoring
Jordan Smith (+1400)
Since placing my bet on Jordan Smith on Monday, he’s made his way from +2000 to +1400 on DraftKings Sportsbook. That’s a great sign for us. Smith is elite when it comes to par five scoring, as he currently ranks second on the DP World Tour in par five average scoring and on these longest courses, the par fives are what make-or-break any given tournament. Smith too is elite out of the sand, ranking fourth on Tour in sand saves percentage. He is also 19th in SG: OTT, 21st in bogey avoidance, 24th in birdie or better percentage, 55th in SG: APP, 110th in SG: PUTT and 112th in average driving distance. We talked about the potential correlation between last week’s ISPS Handa Championship in Japan and this week’s event, both being held on Jack Nicklaus courses. A week ago, Smith placed T6th, four strokes off eventual winner Lucas Herbert. Smith too played at the two tournaments in South African in March (the SDC Championship and Jonsson Workwear Open) which both too were held at Jack Nicklaus courses. He placed T23rd and T24th at those two events respectively. I think this is going to be a big week for Smith.
Antoine Rozner (+2500)
Rozner is a name I’m continuously on when he’s included in a DP World Tour event. He’s a very well rounded golfer that checks a lot of boxes statistically. That remains the case here this week in Korea. Rozner is currently tenth on Tour in sand saves percentage, 11th in booty avoidance, 38th in SG: PUTT, 40th in SG: APP, 42nd in par five average scoring, 48th in birdie or better percentage, 53rd in SG: OTT and 83rd in average driving distance. Rozner is a three time winner on the DP World Tour, including a victory earlier this season at the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open. Beyond that, he went T3rd at the SDC Championship in March, again, at a Jack Nicklaus designed course. He also placed T5th at the Thailand Classic and T6th at the Singapore Championship dating back to February of this year. It’s a matter of time before Rozner finds himself back at the top of a DP World Tour leaderboard and this week may be that week.
Grant Forrest (+3500)
I got in on Forrest earlier in the week at +4500 and he’s already made his way down to +3500 on DraftKings Sportsbook. That’s for good reason obviously. Forrest is above average in all but sand saves percentage in terms of the statistical categories we’re taking into consideration this week. He’s currently 17th on Tour in birdie or better percentage, 23rd in average driving distance, 24th in par five average scoring, 44th in SG: PUTT, 45th SG: APP, 64th in SG: OTT, 68th in bogey avoidance and 96th in sand saves percentage. The Scottish native placed T4th in Japan. Spanning across his last four events, his worst finish has been a T13th at the Thailand Classic. He also placed T11th at the Magical Kenya Open and T6th at the Singapore Classic. I’m loving having Forrest at +4500 this week.
Romain Langasque (+5000)
Langasque actually tops my model this week. Even over the likes of Smith, Rozner and Forrest. He’s currently fifth on Tour in par five average scoring, seventh in sand saves percentage, 24th in bogey avoidance, 30th in average driving distance, 35th in SG: APP, 48th in SG: OTT, 66th in birdie or better percentage and 112th in SG: PUTT. He’ll need a few putts to fall this week but he checks every other box in a big way. He placed T9th in late March at the Jonsson Workwear Open and most recently placed T45th at the ISPS Handa Championship. I got in on Langasque a little early at +4500 but I don’t mind those odds at all. He sits atop my model for a reason.