Barnes absence leaves OneAsia title up for grabs

Tuesday, 15 May 2012
Kurt Barnes
Kurt Barnes

The SK Telecom Open tees off this week without defending champion Kurt Barnes, who has gone from high to low since his breakthrough win on OneAsia last year.

Australian Barnes followed up his victory at Pinx Golf Club here with a maiden triumph on the Japan Tour four months later, but he admits he is now struggling a bit with the putter and has returned home to fix the problem.

"It was a very difficult decision not to play in the SK Telecom Open as I enjoyed it so much last year, but on balance I needed to work further on my game before resuming playing," Barnes said.

"I love Korean food and the course was great too."

The SK Telecom Open is the fourth stop on a busy OneAsia schedule this year and follows Korean Kim Bi-o's emphatic five-stroke victory in the GS Caltex Maekyung Open in Seoul at the weekend.

Last year the one billion won (around U.S. $900,000) event was shortened to three rounds because of fog on the final day, but a brilliant tournament-best 64 by Barnes in the second round showed him to be a worthy winner.

Barnes has played three events in Japan this year, but missed the cut in each.

"It’s hard to pinpoint what separates a winning performance one week to a poor performance the following week," he said.

"But if I was to point to one thing it would be putting. You can putt well one week and touch the hole half a dozen times in a round but sink nothing, and the following week they can all drop.

"It’s a confidence thing which comes from hitting shots you envisage."

That just isn't happening at the moment.

"I couldn't quite get the speed of the greens in the three weeks in Japan ," he said. "It is a long season in Japan with some big events coming up so I need to be on top of my game."

Barnes said he returned home to spend time with his coach and to focus on putting as well as short approach shots.

"Preparation is critical. My putting wasn't where I need it to be. We have spent a lot of time on that."

That said, there are some bright spots to match the garish trousers he is fond of wearing on the course.

"My TaylorMade R11S driver is working beautifully," he said.

Barnes has still set himself some lofty goals for the year, with the main aim of breaking into the world's top 50. He is currently ranked 155.

"You need to win several events, and I hope to build on the confidence of doing that last year," he said

But to do that he must continue with the grind of the travel associated with being a professional golfer.

"Travel used to be fun, but after a while it can become a chore," he said. "I have just come to accept it as part of what we do and not worry about it,” he said.

"Yes, delays happen, flights are missed … but playing golf for a living is a privilege and the moment we start complaining about all the little things is when it might be time to try something else."