Korean ace An aims to shine at S’pore Open
South Korean sensation wants to make mark at Singapore Open
European Tour Rookie of the Year An Byeong Hun is the latest superstar to join the list of world-class golfers set to tee off in the Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation (SMBC) Singapore Open at Sentosa Golf Club's Serapong course from Jan 28 to 31.
The 24-year-old South Korean, also known as Ben An, has had a barnstorming year in his debut season on the European Tour.
Seventh in the Race to Dubai, he won one of the Tour's premier events - the BMW PGA Championship - and finished with seven top-10s as he raked in more than 2.4 million euros ($3.7m) in prize money.
"It was a memorable year for me in 2015. I was fortunate enough to play some good golf and achieve some great results and I hope to start the new season in a similar vein," said the first Asian to win the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year Award.
An will be keen to prove he is no one-season wonder as he pits his skills against Major winners such as world No. 1 American Jordan Spieth, South Korean Yang Yong Eun and Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke, as well as top players from the Asian Tour and the Japan Golf Tour Organisation (JGTO).
Seoul-native An is the son of former table tennis players Ahn Jae Hyung of South Korea and China's Jiao Zhimin, both of whom were 1988 Seoul Olympics medallists.
When he was just 14, he moved to the United States to attend the David Leadbetter Golf Academy in Bradenton, Florida.
Less than three years later, the golf prodigy rose to prominence by becoming US Amateur's youngest winner when he defeated Ben Martin 7 and 5 in the 36-hole final at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Turning professional in 2011, An earned a place on the Challenge Tour via qualifying school and became the first South Korean to win on the Tour when he clinched the Rolex Trophy last year.
By winning this year's BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, he also became only the second player to claim both the US Amateur and the PGA Championship, after the legendary Arnold Palmer.
And An feels he is ready to make his mark in Singapore next month.
"I have heard a lot about the Singapore Open from fellow players and cannot wait to play the tournament," he said. "The competition for the Singapore Open title will be fierce, with a lot of great players in the field.
"Any time Jordan Spieth is in the line-up, there is a special buzz about the tournament."
With a prize purse of US$1 million ($1.4m), the SMBC Singapore Open will be jointly sanctioned by the Asian Tour and the JGTO.
The tournament, which is returning after a three-year absence, will feature the top 60 from the Asian Tour, top 60 from the JGTO, leading Singapore professionals and amateurs and invites, including players from the top 50 in the world.