Chien completes wire-to-wire win at Buick Open
May 04, 2014
By Laury Livsey, PGATOUR.COM
- Sam Chien left his driver in the bag en route to a final-round 70 at Dragon Lake.
Sam Chien 66-67-69-70 -- 272 (-16)
a-Ze Cheng Dou 67-69-70-69 -- 275 (-13)
Shih Chang Chan 73-72-66-67 -- 278 (-10)
Lucas Lee 73-66-73-67 -- 279 (-9)
Ze Yu He 70-71-67-73 -- 281 (-7)
Hao Tong Li 70-68-70-73 -- 281 (-7)
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GUANGZHOU, China -- It seemed Sam Chien’s win at the Buick Open would be something of an understated victory. As he calmly knocked in a three-footer for par on the 72nd hole that gave him his final, three-shot triumph, Chien removed his hat and waved to the crowd.
After a couple of steps forward, as he made his way toward the scoring tent, his buddies, Series members Ben Lein, Eric Mina and Carl Santos-Ocampo, ran onto the green and gave their buddy a beer shower. The impromptu celebration certainly livened up things.
True to his word Thursday, Chien put in place a plan to navigate Dragon Lake Golf Club’s Asian Games Course. After 72 holes, he had accomplished what he set out to do. On Sunday, just like in the previous three rounds, he was efficient and precise in his play. He left the driver in his bag and he made only four bogeys all week -- none in the final round -- as he captured the title over amateur Ze Cheng Dou. Chien did nothing flashy all day, even all week. He just stuck to his strategy and kept any would-be pursuers at arm’s length.
“When I shot 66 in the first round, I hit the exact same clubs off the tee that I did today. So it wasn’t like I was scared or anything,” Chien said. “I was making conservative decisions but aggressive golf swings. To me, that’s the formula to playing good golf. I feel like I couldn’t get myself in trouble with the clubs I would hit, even if I missed a little bit.”
Midway through the front nine, it was clear that this was going to be a two-man battle, between the pro and the amateur. On the front nine, Chien made a birdie on No. 3. The bucket-hat, sunglasses-wearing Dou followed that with birdie on the fourth. Chien made his second birdie of the day on No. 7, with Dou countering with a birdie a hole later. Chien tried to widen his gap on the back nine, but Dou kept things interesting. The problem being, in the final round, when you’re already trailing by four shots, keeping pace isn’t going to get it done. Chien’s nine pars on the back nine to Dou’s eight pars and a birdie was easily enough.
On the par-4 16th hole, with Chien holding a three-shot advantage, he was short and right of the green with his second shot, while Dou knocked his approach to 10 feet. Dou missed his birdie putt, however, and Chien pitched his ball to five feet in what he called “Probably the best shot of today and maybe the tournament.” He then drained the par putt to maintain his three-shot advantage.
“I felt like that was huge,” Chien said, with a victory lei draped over a clean shirt that he changed into from the beer-soaked, game-worn version he had on 30 minutes earlier. “That easily could have been a two-shot swing. I was short-sided and under pressure. And I hit it to five feet and made the par. I was then three up with two (holes) to go. That’s when I felt like I had it sealed.”
A few minutes later, that’s when Lein, Santos-Ocampo and Mina joined in the festivities. Santos-Ocampo, a Web.com Tour member, hatched the plan the previous night and started getting the “shower” ready, hoping the back nine would go as well for his friend as the front had. Santos-Ocampo had seen the European Tour’s French players celebrate in a similar fashion a week earlier at the Volvo China Open when France’s Alexander Levy won that event. “I was watching the Volvo on TV last night,” Santos-Ocampo said of his inspiration.
Dou didn't get to celebrate, but he is satisfied that he was in the hunt all week and has been the low amateur in the first two PGA TOUR China Series events. He tied for 26th at the inaugural tournament.
With a shirt that needs laundering, Chien finds himself atop the Series’ order of merit after two tournaments -- a tie for sixth at the Mission Hills Haikou Open complementing Sunday’s victory. Chien is planning on playing all 12 events on the schedule, and says his early foray on the Series has taught him a lot.
“I’ve learned a lot about myself and my game during the first couple of weeks on Tour,” Chien said. “I need to keep competing against these really good players and see where my game takes me in the future.”
- Rain came down steadily for about an hour early in the final round then fell intermittently, with downpours occasionally early in the afternoon. Officials allowed preferred lies in the fairways for a fourth consecutive day.
- Anthony Kang overcame a double bogey on his first hole of the day Sunday to record a top-10 finish in his PGA TOUR China Series debut. Following his double, Kang was 3-under the rest of the way to finish seventh.
- For a second consecutive round, Shih Chang Chan turned in the best score of the day, sharing the honor with Brazil’s Lucas Lee. Chan, a Taiwan native, had a 66-67 weekend and finished third. Over his final 36 holes, he was bogey-free, his last bogey coming on his second-to-last hole of the second round. Lee moved up the leaderboard with his 67, a seven-birdie, two-bogey showing that left him in solo fourth.
- J.H. Wang, winner of the first PGA TOUR China Series tournament, the Mission Hills Haikou Open, earned a top-20 at the Buick Open. He began his final round with a double bogey, recovered and shot a Sunday 71, and despite the poor start tied for 13th.
- The par-5 first hole was not forgiving Sunday, with seven players making a double bogey there and another -- Chun Lu -- recording a quadruple bogey-9. For the day, the hole had a 5.10 stroke average. South Korea’s Kook Hyan Kim had the only eagle there Sunday. No. 1 wasn’t the toughest par-5 Sunday at Dragon Lake, though. The eighth hole had a 5.11 average.
- The top finishers among China players were amateur Ze Cheng Dou (second) and Ze Yu He and Hao Tong Li (tied for fifth). Xin Jun Zhang added the other top-10 finish for China players. He tied for eighth, his second top-10 in a row.
Bogey-free rounds (12)
First Round (3): Joowon Ahn, Hai Meng Chao, Brett Drewitt
Second Round (5): Anthony Kang, Lucas Lee, David Lutterus, Ryan McCarthy, Guo Wu Zhou
Third Round (1): Shih Chang Chan
Fourth Round (3): Shih Chang Chan, Sam Chien, Ze Cheng Dou
Sam Chien goes wire-to-wire to capture Buick Open