Whang blitzes first China Series event
2014 Mission Hills Haikou Open | Wrap | 20 Apr 2014
HAIKOU, China—When the final round of the Mission Hills Haikou Open began, there appeared to be a sliver of hope that someone could catch 18 year old Korean J.H. Wang, who held a seven-shot lead when the day began.
Xin Jun Zhang had cut Wang’s advantage to three shots at one point on the front nine, and it seemed there might be a battle. Then Wang, who played like a veteran campaigner, put his foot on the gas one last time, essentially lapping the field and winning the inaugural event on the China Tour – PGA TOUR China series by a dominating 10 strokes.
Although he’s reticent to speak English, as he pulled his ball out of the cup on his 72nd hole after making one last birdie, Wang put both fists into the air and yelled, “Yes.”
While the Series’ record book is new, Wang’s margin-of-victory total may last a while. After sharing the first-round lead with two others, Wang was just better than everybody else over the final 54 holes at Mission Hills Golf Club’s Sandbelt Trails Course—essentially blowing away the field.
“I will go back home tomorrow and have party with my family,” said the native of Seoul. “I am so happy to win the first event of PGA TOUR China. I never thought I could win before I came here. I just tried my best to play every shot. I am very satisfied with a 10-stroke lead for the win. It builds my confidence for the next event.”
The day’s only intrigue occurred early on the front nine, as Wang watched his advantage drop to three strokes when Zhang eagled the par-5 eighth hole to move to 5-under for the day. At that point, Wang was only even-par through his seven holes. Wang seized back control on the ninth hole, while Zhang was on No. 10. Wang rolled in a short birdie putt on the par-5, while Zhang was making bogey on the 10th—a two-shot swing that gave Wang a five-stroke cushion.
“I had no idea [Zhang] made eagle at No. 8. The first time I saw a leaderboard was on No. 9, and I was five shots ahead,” Wang explained.
Wang then birdied Nos. 11 and 12 and cruised from there. He shot a 5-under 31 on the back nine, adding birdies on Nos. 15 and 16 and an exclamation-point, tap-in birdie on the par-5 18th for a Sunday 66. Perhaps the biggest surprise came when Wang didn’tmake his 25-foot eagle putt on the finishing hole.
“I knew I was only three strokes behind Wang on the front nine,” said Zhang, who finished alone in second. “I saw the leaderboard, and I knew maybe I had a chance to catch him. But when I got to the back nine, my putting was not very good, and I missed a lot of chances.” At the same time, Wang was just warming up.
“He played amazing this week,” added Zhang, of Wang. “Twenty-three under is an amazing score.”
How amazing? Wang was the only player in the field with four rounds in the 60s, he made a mere six bogeys all week and was under par for the week on the par-4s (3.73) and par-5s (4.25). He’ll have to work on his par-3s. His stroke average was exactly 3.0 on those 16 holes.
Aussie Ray Beaufils was another player who entertained thoughts of making a run until a double bogey on No. 9 ended his chances.
“Well, in this sport you just never know. Anything can happen. But, honestly, I don’t think anybody in the world could have beaten [Wang] this week,” said Beaufils, who shared third place with Steve Dartnall.
“Every putt he made was dead center. I need to take a putting lesson from him. It was so impressive to watch him play, and I was happy to be a witness.”
Twenty-two natives of China made the cut, and of that group, with only Xin Jun Zhang recording a top-10 finish (second). Chinese players in the top 25 included Xin Yang Li (tied for 12th), Zheng Ouyang (tied for 12th) and Lian Wen Zhang (tied for 20th).
Low-amateur honors went to Ze Cheng Dou, who finished at 3-under and tied for 26th.
Six countries were represented in the top-10 on the leaderboard at the end of the tournament. Australia had four players South Korea had two, and China, Singapore, the United States and New Zealand were the others.