World number one aspirant and arguably the face of European gold Rory McIlroy will ply his trade in Asia this weekend as he contests the Korea Open at Woo Jeong Country Hills Club in Cheonan.
It’s a tournament he’s familiar with after finishing third at his only visit to the country back in 2009.
The popular Northern Irishman comes into this tournament just third up since having a two month break back in July.
He started well in the Dutch KLM open and progressed further when second in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in Scotland on Sunday.
He will need a big round if he’s to break through for his first win since returning though with a mountain of support for hometown hero and defending champion YE Yang.
There’s also good representation from other Asian players as well as the usual European and Australian suspects.
“I am excited to be back for the first time since 2009. I went close last time and finished third, so it would be nice to come back and do better,” McIlroy said.
“I remember the course, but the thing I remember most is that the par threes are tough, especially on the back nine.
“All aspects of your game have to be in shape every week, but especially iron play this week considering the tough par threes we will have to play.”
For Yang the Korea Open probably has more pressure than the average major, something that’s continued to increase since he beat Tiger Woods in a playoff to win the PGA Championship in 2009.
There’s no doubt he’s the one they’re going for this weekend so he’ll need to handle that as well as McIlroy.
“I have good memories of the course from last year. I enjoy this tournament and I know that Korean fans look forward to this week,” said Yang.
“Rory is a good player and I am looking forward to playing against him this week. I lost to him at the US Open so I would like to beat him, but he is the highest ranked player in the field this week.”
He’s not the only Korean in the mix though with Noh Seung-yol looking to make amends after letting go a five shot lead in the 2010 tournament.
“I’m sure YE Yang has great memories of last year, but I don’t and I hope he will feel my pain this time around,” Noh said.
“I play the Korea Open every year and I am looking forward to playing alongside top quality players.”