Asia’s most successful male golfer, KJ Choi, will return for his third straight year for the New Zealand Open in Queenstown next month.
The 101st New Zealand Open, which boasts a total prize purse of $1.45 million, is a co-sanctioned event with the PGA Tour of Australasia and the Asian Tour, and staged at Millbrook Resort and The Hills from February 27 to March 1.
Choi, who has won 29 times during 25 years as a professional, will extend his two decades on the PGA Tour this year under a new exemption category and will split his time with the Champions Tour after he turns 50 in May.
The super popular South Korean said while he has a busy year ahead in the sport, that he was keen to return to the New Zealand Open and to Queenstown.
“I have greatly enjoyed my last two visits to the New Zealand Open and I cannot say enough about the presentation of the courses at Millbrook Resort and The Hills,” Choi said.
“I also enjoy the format as it gives me a chance to play with amateur partners and also the opportunity to win a very prestigious golf title.
“Queenstown is a very beautiful location. I spent time in New Zealand as a young professional and always have such fond memories of this stunning country and its warm and friendly people.
“I played quite well last year and I feel if my game is at its best then I can be very competitive at Millbrook Resort, which will be the host course this time.”
New Zealand Open tournament director Michael Glading is thrilled that the golf superstar will return to Queenstown.
“We were initially very excited to attract KJ to the New Zealand Open in 2018. Once he came, he fell in love with the place and the tournament,” Glading said.
“He put the work in to his game in 2019 and he was among the top-10 scorers over the weekend last year. There’s no doubt that he still has the game and ability to be a real factor in this tournament.”
Choi, who finished in a share of 17th place in 2019, had one top-10 finish on the PGA Tour to his credit in 2019, and has mixed a busy year both on and off the golf course.
He was an assistant captain to Ernie Els at the recent Presidents Cup in Melbourne and plans to establish a junior golf academy in Florida that will focus as much on academics.
“I’ve been training in the offseason with junior golfers for many years through my foundation and I’ve been telling them about the importance of academics,” Choi said. “I think it’s unfortunate that there are some young players who do nothing but play golf during the season. PGA Tour stars play with so much creativity because they put as much emphasis on studying as on golf.”
Before he puts his full attention to establishing his foundation, Choi takes on the role of head coach of the South Korean team for the Tokyo Olympics, a role he also had at Rio in 2016.