KJ Choi is one of the top 25 players on the PGA TOUR’s all-time money-list with earnings of over NZ$50 million in prize-money. The hugely popular Korean has 20 professional victories worldwide to his credit, winning eight times on the PGA TOUR and taking the trophy at the 2011 PLAYERS’ Championship.
YE Yang is the first Asian-born player to win a Major, with his famous victory over Tiger Woods in the 2009 US PGA Championship among his 12 career wins. The 47-year-old proved he is far from a spent force in the game with an outstanding 2018 season on the Japan Golf Tour, including victory at The Crowns among seven top-13 finishes that saw him 12th overall on the Order of Merit.
The pair has a shared history in golf in New Zealand, both coming here as young professionals to learn the game before embarking on their illustrious careers. Yang returned to compete in the New Zealand Open in 2017 and Choi last year, with both players excited to return to the country and to have the opportunity to play with sponsors in Queenstown.
“I very much enjoyed playing in Queenstown last year but because I now know more about the courses I wanted to return and be even more competitive this time,” says Choi who missed the cut by just one shot last year.
Yang finished T39th at the New Zealand Open last year, which was a springboard for his exceptional season in Japan.
“New Zealand was important for me when I was starting in golf. I spent almost four years here playing and practicing in Auckland, Christchurch and Taupo especially,” says Yang.
“Last year gave me the chance to return and play in Queenstown which is beautiful, so I was keen to return again and I would like to play well especially in the 100th New Zealand Open – it would be a special honour.”
The addition of YE Yang to the field now means that the 100th New Zealand Open will boast three former Major winners, with Yang lining up alongside former US Open Champions Michael Campbell and Geoff Ogilvy.
Tournament Director Michael Glading commented: “It is a thrill to know that two legends of the game have enjoyed their previous visits here so much that they are both keen to return. Not only that, both are extremely competitive – Korean golf goes from strength to strength and both KJ and YE remain at the forefront of that.”