Barnes lifts title in fog-hit SK Telecom Open

Jeju-do, Korea:  May 22: Australia’s Kurt Barnes won the SK Telecom Open by one shot from Korea’s Kim Kyung-tae after Sunday’s final round was cancelled due to fog at Pinx Golf Club.

Big-hitting Barnes was a doubt to even start at this week’s OneAsia event due to a shoulder injury, but the 29-year-old made a key up-and-down for par at the end of Saturday’s third round to sign for a five-under-par 67 to top the leaderboard at 14 under.

And after GS Caltex Maekyung Open Kim Kyung-tae carded a bogey-free 66 after missing a testing long distance birdie chance on the final green, Barnes’ one shot overnight lead never came under threat as the final round was cancelled after only seven minutes of play was possible following an initial delay of over four hours.

“It’s unbelievable. On Tuesday I probably wasn’t even going to play. It’s unlucky because I was looking forward to going head-to-head with Kyung-tae, but the delay has played in my favour and the fog hung around and I am the 2011 champion,” said Barnes, who moved into third place on the OneAsia Order of Merit.

“It means a massive amount to me. On Tuesday afternoon I was really considering pulling out and I went to some big lengths to try and play because I had a tour caddie on the bag. If I had just a house caddie on the bag, I would have probably pulled the pin on Tuesday afternoon without a second thought and got everything checked out. But I wanted the opportunity to play and work with Simon (Clarke) as a team and see how we gelled, so to be crowned champion is massive.”

After beginning the week with a 71, Barnes blazed a course record equalling 64 during Friday’s second round to storm into contention after finishing seventh at The Crowns in Japan at the start of May.

But after carding six birdies against one bogey during his third round, the key moment arrived on the final hole on Saturday afternoon as Barnes played a superb chip over a greenside bunker following a wayward approach before holing a tricky four foot downhill putt.

“I now hope that this is a new beginning. I made a bet with a mate back in January that if I won a main tour event this year he would get a tattoo, so I will be sending him a text to let him know,” added Barnes, who last triumphed at the 2009 Sofitel Zhongshan IGC Open.

“I played well in Japan a couple of weeks ago and to come to this tournament knowing that I might not be playing at all and to play well in the second round and also in the third is fantastic.

“Looking back on it, the par putt I made on 18 was probably the biggest putt of my career.”

In-form Kim Kyung-tae began the week ranked world number 35 after finishing third at the PGA Championship in Japan, and after adding to his GS Caltex Maekyung Open success, the 24-year-old moved to the top of the OneAsia Order of Merit ahead of Andre Stolz and Barnes.

“Unfortunately golf is controlled by the weather,” said Kim, who won three times on the Japan Tour last year to become the first Korean to top the end of season money list.

“I played well again this week and I was feeling very good and confident as I have been playing well recently, but I did not have any luck with the weather.”

After holding a one shot lead after two rounds 2009 champion Park Sang-hyun of Korea could only manage a third round 72 to finish third four shots off the pace.

Australia’s Ashley Hall claimed fourth a further two shots adrift with Korea’s Jung Ji-ho fifth at seven-under-par.

Teenage Korean rookie Han Chang-won, 2010 champion Bae Sang-moon and Kim Hyung-tae finished tied for sixth eight shots off the pace, with first round leader Stolz, fellow Australia Scott Arnold and Korean amateur Kim Si-woo rounding out the top 10 at five-under-par.

Final round scores and ties
202 – Kurt Barnes (AUS) 71-64-67
203 – Kim Kyung-tae (KOR) 70-67-66
206 – Park Sang-hyun (KOR) 69-65-72
208 – Ashley Hall (AUS) 71-68-69
209 – Jung Ji-ho (KOR) 72-67-70
210 – Han Chang-won (KOR) 72-70-68, Kim Hyung-tae (KOR) 70-68-72, Bae Sang-moon (KOR) 72-67-71
211 – Andre Stolz (AUS) 66-74-71, Kim Si-woo (am, KOR) 74-66-71, Scott Arnold (AUS) 67-72-72
212 – KJ Choi (KOR) 67-74-71, Lee Jin-won (KOR) 73-68-71, Kim Seung-hyuk (KOR) 71-70-71, Terry Pilkadaris (AUS) 71-69-72, Kim Bi-o (KOR) 74-66-72