Jeju - US PGA Tour veteran KJ Choi on Wednesday said that this week's ground-breaking CJ Cup in South Korea was an "invaluable" opportunity to develop home talent.
Choi, winner of eight PGA Tour titles, and Players Championship winner Kim Si-Woo are the leading names among 16 South Koreans in the first US PGA event to be held on Korean soil as they compete for a massive first prize of $1.665 million.
They face a star-studded field that includes the likes of current USPGA and FedEx Cup champion Justin Thomas, recent winners Pat Perez, Xander Schauffele and Marc Leishman plus past major champions Jason Day, Adam Scott, Graeme McDowell and Charl Schwartzel.
South Korea's women dominate the LPGA rankings, holding three of the first four positions, and Choi said this week was a golden opportunity for the country's men to test themselves against the elite.
"My fellow Korean players will have an invaluable learning opportunity this week," the 47-year-old Choi, the most successful Korean male player with 22 worldwide victories, told reporters.
"Through this experience they will also get an idea of what they need to do to achieve their dreams on a great course. They can gauge themselves against the best."
The Nine Bridges course was ranked by "US Golfer" magazine among its top 100 in the world. Choi rates it even higher than that. "I would put it within the top 15," he said.
Kim became the youngest player, at 21, to lift the prestigious Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass earlier this year - a tournament regarded as the fifth major - and said he was nervous but looking for no less than victory.
"I am feeling a bit of pressure," said Kim. "I especially want to do well in this event as CJ are my sponsors. I would at least like to be in the top 10, if not win."
The inaugural, $9.25 million event is the second stop of a new three-week PGA Tour swing in Asia after last week's CIMB Classic in Malaysia.
Next week it concludes at the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai, dubbed "Asia's Major".
The CJ Cup was conceived after the hugely successful Presidents Cup at Incheon near Seoul two years ago.
In a thrilling finale the Internationals were pipped 14.5-13.5 by the Americans on the 18th green in the final singles match.
Bae Sang-Moon was the man who lost under immense pressure that day, his last competitive outing before enlisting for two years of compulsory military service.
Bae is now on the comeback trail and has played two events in the past month since leaving the army, missing the cut in both.
"I predict I will play all four rounds this week," Bae told AFP with a smile. "Because there's no cut."
There have been no big name pull-outs despite increasing tensions on the peninsula since North Korea fired missiles over Japan and claimed to have tested a hydrogen bomb last month.