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KPGA stars looking to make Saudi-backed LIV Golf

Dec. 1, 2023 - 13:46 By Yonhap
South Korean golfer Ham Jeong-woo. (Yonhap)

Ham Jeong-woo, the 2023 Player of the Year on the KPGA Korean Tour, will be among eight South Korean golfers teeing off at a qualifying tournament for a Saudi Arabia-backed renegade circuit this month.

LIV Golf, financed by the Public Investment Fund, the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia, announced the field for the inaugural LIV Golf Promotions on Thursday. It said over 70 players representing 23 countries will compete at Abu Dhabi Golf Club in Abu Dhabi from Dec. 8-10, with the top three finishers earning their places for the 2024 season.

Ham, 29, has three Korean Tour titles on his resume. In 2023, he finished first in the Player of the Year points standings, second in scoring average, and third in official money.

After finishing the season on Nov. 12, Ham said he would try to take his talent overseas and play in the qualifying tournament for the PGA Tour, in addition to the LIV Golf Promotions and some tournaments in Europe and Asia.

Other KPGA players set to play in Abu Dhabi are: Kang Kyung-nam, an 11-time winner in South Korea; Kim Bi-o, a former PGA Tour player with nine titles in his native country; and Lee Tae-hee, the 2015 Korean Tour Player of the Year.

The three-day, four-round competition will feature a major champion in Jason Dufner, the 2013 PGA Championship winner, and winners from the PGA Tour, DP World Tour (formerly European Tour) and Asian Tour.

Nearly 60 players will tee off in the first round next Friday, and those who end up inside the top 20 and ties will move on to the second round, where scores will reset.

That field will be joined by 14 players who automatically qualified for the second round.

The top 20 players following the second round will advance to the final stage, where scores will once again reset for a 36-hole shootout.

The top three players after the final round will receive spots in the LIV Golf League for the 2024 season, which will begin in February and will make 14 stops around the world.

LIV Golf held its inaugural season in 2022, after luring some big names from the PGA Tour with offers of lucrative prize money and shorter schedule. The roster includes major champions and former world No. 1 players such as Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia, Cameron Smith and Phil Mickelson.

No South Korean player has been in LIV Golf, though three players of Korean descent -- Kevin Na and Sihwan Kim of the United States and Danny Lee of New Zealand -- have been part of the breakaway tour.

LIV Golf has been accused of being a vehicle for Saudi Arabia's "sportswashing," or an effort by the country criticized for human rights abuses to cleanse its public image through sports. (Yonhap)