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NZ Open field boosted by Asian and Japan Tour stars

Kim a 13 time Japan Tour winner and former Presidents Cup player (Photo: Photosport)
Two of the leading lights on the Asian Tour and the Japan Tour over the last decade, Australian Scott Hend and South Korean KT Kim, are amongst the latest stars to confirm their places for the ISPS Handa New Zealand Open.

Hend has been in the top-four on the Asian Tour Order of Merit in each of the last five years including top money winner in 2016, while Kim has been money leader twice on the lucrative Japan Golf Tour where he has won 13 times, and played in the 2011 Presidents Cup.

Their entries are a direct result of the co-sanction agreement with the ISPS Handa PGA Tour of Australasia and the Asian Tour, and the developing partnership with the Japan Golf Tour.

Both players have also performed successfully around the world, with Kim also playing numerous events on the Asian Tour and the PGA Tour and a Presidents Cup team member, while Hend is a full member of the European Tour (where he has won twice) as well as plying his trade on the Asian Tour and ISPS Handa PGA Tour of Australasia.

Scott Hend

The 99th ISPS Handa New Zealand Open, which will boast an overall NZ$1.2 million prize purse, will be hosted at Millbrook Resort and The Hills near Queenstown on 1-4 March.

Hend and Kim will be joined by former Major winner YE Yang (Korea), who is renowned for being the first Asian player to win a major, when he defeated Tiger Woods down the stretch in the 2009 USPGA Championship. Yang, who has been competing on the European Tour in recent times, has now switched to the Japan Tour going forward, having won their gruelling Q-School event last month. He returns to Queenstown after playing the event last year.

Amongst players also confirmed today are the 2011 New Zealand Open Champion Brad Kennedy, who lost in a play-off (along with Kiwi Ben Campbell) to Mike Hendry last year, and proven fellow Australians Andrew Dodt and Marcus Fraser.

Dodt is a two-time winner on the European Tour where he still plies his trade, winning NZ$1.56m last year, which helped him to a world ranking well within the world top 200.

Fraser is a six-time European Tour winner, with earnings in Europe of around NZ$800,000 in 2017. He partnered Hend in the Australian team at the Rio Olympics, leading after two rounds and eventually finishing fifth.

They join PGA Tour star KJ Choi, superstar Americans off the Japan Tour in Chan Kim and Steven Han, defending champion Michael Hendry and fellow Kiwis Ryan Fox, Tim Wilkinson and Steven Alker to confirm their starts in Queenstown.

Tournament Director Michael Glading said the confirmation of Kim, Hend and Yang is a further considerable boost for the event.

“I am confident that 2018 will be the strongest field in our time staging this event,” said Glading.

“We have been chasing KT to come to our tournament for three years now, while Scott Hend has been the standout player on the Asian Tour over the last few years. Having a recent Asian Tour money-winner, a recent Presidents Cup player, and a Major champion is a real coup for us.

“These guys are in the top 200 in the world and seriously good players.”

 

NAT WHITTINGTON TWO BALL PUTTING DRILL

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