Byeong-hun An is hoping to go one step further at this year’s Scottish Hydro Challenge hosted by Macdonald Hotels and Resorts, having narrowly missed out on a maiden Challenge Tour title last year as Brooks Koepka claimed a career-changing victory.
Former US Amateur Champion An, known to friends as Ben, has been on strong form in his third season on the Challenge Tour, finishing runner up to Moritz Lampert at the Kärnten Golf Open presented by Mazda last month.
The Korean currently lies in seventh place in the Challenge Tour Rankings and will be hoping he can graduate to The European Tour at the third time of asking.
With the prize fund for the Scottish Hydro Challenge hosted by Macdonald Hotels and Resorts increased to €250,000, the largest in the tournament’s nine year history, this week becomes even more important for those with hopes of making the step-up from the second tier.
An will certainly be confident of claiming his first professional win at Macdonald Spey Valley Golf Club, a course which he thoroughly enjoys.
“I hope I can go one better this year,” said the 22 year old, who in 2009 became the youngest player to win the prestigious US Amateur Championship, which has a list of winners that includes Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Matt Kuchar.
“It’s a tough course. The greens are really tough and driving is the key I think. If you can drive it well you will score I think, especially on the par fives. If you drive long on the par fives they are reachable in two.
“I’m looking forward to going back and hopefully we can get some nice weather this time around. I think it suits my game but it all depends on how I’m playing.
“I don’t think it’s about courses suiting me or not suiting me. It’s just about whether I’m playing well or not. If I play well that course suits me but it all depends on my game.
“I’m playing OK at the moment. I’ve missed a couple of cuts in the last few weeks but hopefully I’ll get it back in the next few weeks. I’d like to finish strong before heading home after The Open Qualifying.”
An finished in a share of second place last year as Brooks Koepka claimed a third victory of the 2013 season, earning the American his European Tour card and beginning a meteoric rise to the top of the world game which culminated in a tie for fourth place finish at the US Open Championship two weeks ago.
Koepka returned to Scotland the following month to record a tied 12th finish in his first appearance as a European Tour Member at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open, before being drawn alongside 14-time Major winner Woods in the final group of the US PGA Championship.
The 24 year old has since come close to earning a first win on the US PGA Tour before securing his status in America courtesy of that superb performance at Pinehurst, where another former Challenge Tour star Martin Kaymer claimed victory.
This year’s Scottish Hydro Challenge hosted by Macdonald Hotels and Resorts promises one of the strongest fields in the tournament’s history, with every winner of the 2014 season arriving on The 2014 Ryder Cup host nation’s shores.
Moritz Lampert could follow in the footsteps of Koepka by earning his playing rights on The European Tour with victory, having already claimed two wins this season, at the Kärnten Golf Open presented by Mazda and the Fred Olsen Challenge de España.
The only two-time winner of this tournament, Sam Walker of England, returns to Aviemore chasing a third Scottish Hydro Challenge title while Challenge Tour Rankings leader, Spaniard Jordi Garcia Pinto, looks to add to the title he won a fortnight ago at the Najeti Hotels et Golfs Open.
European Tour winners in the field include Welshman Rhys Davies, Jeppe Huldahl of Denmark and Scot Raymond Russell, while former Ryder Cup player Oliver Wilson also plays as the Englishman aims to make a return to The European Tour, where he has finished runner-up nine times.
Source: European Tour