Top Asian winners in NZ Open

KT Kim
KT Kim
The New Zealand Open field continues to grow and is shaping up to be one of the best.

The two leading lights on the Asian Tour and the Japan Tour over the past decade, Scott Hend and KT Kim, are among the latest stars to confirm their places for the Open at Millbrook and The Hills on March 1-4.

Australian Hend has been in the top four on the Asian Tour order of merit in each of the past five years and was top money winner in 2016, while Kim has been money leader twice on the lucrative Japan  Tour, on which  he has won 13 times. He has also played in the Presidents Cup.

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

Scott Hend
Scott Hend
Both Hend and  Kim have also performed successfully around the world.  Kim has also played  many events on the Asian Tour and the PGA Tour, while Hend is a full member of the European Tour, on which he has won twice,  as well as plying his trade on the Asian Tour and  PGA Tour of Australasia.

The New Zealand Open will boast an overall $1.2million prize purse.

Hend and Kim will be joined by South Korean YE Yang, the first Asian player to win a major, when he defeated Tiger Woods down the stretch in the 2009 PGA Championship.

Yang, who has been competing on the European Tour in recent times, has now switched to the Japan Tour, having won the gruelling Q-School event last month. He returns to Queenstown after playing in the Open last year.

YE Yang
YE Yang
Among other players confirmed yesterday were 2011 New Zealand Open Champion Brad Kennedy, who lost in a playoff, along with Kiwi Ben Campbell,  to Michael Hendry last year, and fellow proven Australians Andrew Dodt and Marcus Fraser.

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

Fraser is a six-time European Tour winner, with earnings in Europe of around $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 superstar Americans off the Japan Tour in Chan Kim and Steven Han, defending champion Hendry and fellow Kiwis Ryan Fox, Tim Wilkinson and Steven Alker to confirm their starts in Queenstown.

Marcus Fraser
Marcus Fraser
Tournament director Michael Glading said the confirmation of Kim, Hend and Yang was a further considerable boost for the event.

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

"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 President’s 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."

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