This is exactly what the PGA Tour – and Nike – would have hoped for when it launched its China Series earlier this year. 27-year-old Shanxi native Zhang Xinjun, who signed with Nike almost exactly a year ago alongside 19-year-old Li Haotong, finally won a tournament after a succession of near misses. He now leads the overall standings in the race to win one of five spots for next year’s US-based Web.com Tour, itself the feeder of the PGA Tour.
Taiwanese-born American Sam Chien (pictured right) followed up his T6th finish at the first ever PGA Tour China Series event two weeks ago with a win in the Tour’s second event, the Buick Open. Chien finished on 16-under-par, three shots ahead of Chinese amateur Dou Zecheng, who made the cut at last year’s Volvo China Open, aged just 16. Li Haotong, who played well for 70 of 72 holes at this year’s Volvo China Open maintained his good form, finishing T5th on 7-under. Korean-born American Skyler Hong missed the cut, but drove away with a Buick GL-8 after acing the par-3 13th in the second round.
Despite taking the first set 6-2, Li Na lost the final of the WTA Championships in Istanbul (the last before the end-of-season showpiece moves to Singapore next year), as world number one Serena Williams won the next two sets 6-3, 6-0. It was Serena’s 11th title of the year, and her 10th win in 11 games against Li Na, but after going into the game as a massive underdog, Li can be happy she at least forced a third set. Crucially, she now moves up to 3rd in the world rankings – a career high – by leapfrogging both Maria Sharapova and Agnieszka Radwanska.
American Luke Guthrie takes a four-shot lead into the weekend at the BMW Masters in Shanghai, after an up-and-down 1-under par 71 took him to -8, while Paul Casey headlines a group of six players in second place on 4-under par. My prediction that John Daly would start brightly fade and then fade badly was largely right: two bogeys and a double bogey in the last five holes gave him a 2-over-par 74, to put him tied for 9th on 2-under par. But Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter are among those lurking on 1-under-par and it should be a good weekend.
While the teenage males (12-year-old Ye Wocheng, 14-year-old Guan Tianlang, 16-year-old Dou Zecheng and others) have garnered recent attention for men’s golf in China, it’s the women who continue to lead the way.
Here’s my article in this month’s That’s Beijing magazine, which is now online, but was written before Dou Zecheng’s heroics at the China Open 10 days ago. The key to being the next Chinese golfing superstar? Money.
Last month, China’s 14-year-old golf sensation Guan Tianlang became not only the youngest player ever to tee off at the Masters in Augusta, but the youngest to make the cut at any PGA Tour event.
This kid is impressive. OK, so he’s not the 12-year-old, he’s not the 14-year-old, he’s not even the 15-year-old, but 16-year-old Chinese golfer Dou Zecheng followed up his 2-under-par round of 70 on Thursday with an even-par 72 on Friday to make the cut at the Volvo China Open with two shots to spare. Dou sits tied for 36th place in a field that has just been reduced from 156 to 68.
Some of those who didn’t make the cut: Spain’s Alvaro Quiros, a six-time winner on the European Tour, Ryder Cup legend Paul McGinley and 29 of the 32 Chinese players in the field (and Dou is currently ahead of both of the other Chinese who did make the cut, Huang Wenyi and Liang Wenchong).
He’s still ten shots off the lead, after Finland’s Mikko Ilonen shot a course record 63, but Dou’s second round was perhaps more impressive than his first: the attention that had previously been squarely on 12-year-old Ye Wocheng’s shoulders at the start of the tournament had shifted onto Dou on Friday and he rose to the occasion beautifully, even reaching -4 for the tournament early in his round. [UPDATE: Dou shot another even-par 72 in Saturday’s third round, and a final round of 73 saw him finish tied for 33rd.]
With all the attention at this week’s Volvo China Open on 12-year-old Chinese qualifier Ye Wocheng, it was perhaps no surprise that he shot a 7-over-par 79 in Thursday’s first round. But these Chinese youngsters just keep coming… 16-year-old amateur, Dou Zecheng, shot a 2-under-par 70, and sits tied for 11th, four strokes off the lead.
Dou may not be as famous as fellow Chinese teens Guan Tianlang, who made the cut in this year’s Masters, or Andy Zhang, who qualified for last year’s US Open, but he’s been on the radar for a while. His best achievement to date was a fourth place finish in the stroke play section of last year’s US Junior Amateur Championship, though he lost in the Round of the 16 in the subsequent match play competition. He is currently the top ranked junior golfer of those set to graduate in 2015, and number 8 overall.
16-year-old Jim Liu, number 2 overall in the junior ranks, is also playing in Tianjin. He’s an American, born to Chinese parents, and became the youngest U.S. Junior Amateur champion in history in 2010 (beating Tiger Woods’ record), but struggled on the front nine on Thursday, hitting the turn in +6, and finished with a 5-over-par 77, and 15-year-old Bai Zhengkai posted an 11-over-par 83. Meanwhile, Andy Zhang is NOT playing: he pulled out this week through injury. Continue reading 12-year-old golfer upstaged by 16-year-old veteran