November 15, 2007 – Kang Wook Soon provided a blast from the past on the opening day of the UBS Hong Kong Open on Thursday (November 15).
The Korean veteran – the last Asian player to win the tournament, in 1998 – fired a five-under-par 65 in the opening round at the Hong Kong Golf Club in Fanling.
“I enjoy playing on this course,” said Kang, 41. “The fairways are small with big trees all around.
“I like playing on mature courses. It is similar to my home course back in Seoul, so I’m quite comfortable playing here.”
Kang’s effort left him three strokes off the pace being set by his compatriot KJ Choi, who carded a 62.
Kang mixed six birdies with a lone bogey as he took advantage of the almost perfect weather at sun-kissed Fanling.
“The conditions here are really good,” he added. “A lot depends on your putting and my putting today was spot on. I holed almost anything within 11 yards so, overall, I’m very pleased with my round.”
He revealed he had changed his irons last week and said the new clubs had been working well for him.
Kang’s Hong Kong Open victory in 1998 came when the tournament was an Asian Tour-only event.
Since then, it has become co-sanctioned by the European Tour and has been won by European players eight years in a row.
The tournament’s prize money has almost tripled to US$2.25 million in the three years since UBS assumed title sponsorship.
Kang ranks as one of Asia’s best ever players – he has seven career wins on the Asian Tour and was the first player to claim two Order of Merit titles, in 1996 and 1998 – but his last significant victory came in the 2001 Thailand Masters.
Now, back in the familiar surroundings of Fanling, he feels he has returned to somewhere near his best.
“A few years back, I tried for the US Qualifying School and missed out narrowly, so that affected my concentration and the mental aspect of my game,” he revealed.
“But I’m back on track this year and I’m very focused on my game now.”