Produced six birdies in the final nine holes to charge into a tie for third at the Japan Tour’s Mizuno Open on June 2 and so claimed one of the four Royal Portrush places on offer.
Played his first major at Carnoustie last July thanks to his runner-up finish at the Kolon Korea Open, another of the The Open Qualifying Series events, a week after capturing the KEB Hana Bank Invitational. That was one of three victories on home soil last season. He won a four-man play-off at the Caltex Maekyung Open, but in September’s Shinhan Donghae Open fired a closing 63 to triumph by five.
First made his presence felt in a European Tour event when he eagled the last hole to finish third at the 2011 Ballantine’s Championship in his home country, two behind winner and then world No 1 Lee Westwood, one behind Miguel Angel Jimenez and one ahead of Dustin Johnson. His one success on the Japan Tour was the 2016 Golf Nippon Series JT Cup, where he finished a stroke ahead of compatriot KT Kim and Japanese stars Yuta Ikeda and Satoshi Kodaira.