Preview: United Investment Real Estate Wuhan Open
May 15, 2014
By PGA TOUR China staff, PGATOUR.COM
- PGA Tour China's third stop on the schedule is the United Investment Real Estate Wuhan Open at Yishan Golf Club. (Courtesy of Yishan Golf Club)
WUHAN, China—One of these days, it is presumed that Sam Chien will record an 18-hole PGA TOUR China Series round that is over par. The thing is, it hasn’t happened yet.
Chien has begun his PGA TOUR China Series career with eight consecutive under-par rounds in the circuit’s first two tournaments, and for his efforts he has recorded a tie for sixth at the inaugural event—the Mission Hills Haikou Open—and a victory at the Buick Open. Chien, who leads the order of merit by a little more than ¥19,000 over J.H. Wang looks to maintain his money-list lead and earn victory No. 2—while keeping his below-par round streak alive—as the Series moves to the capital of the Hubei Province for the United Investment Real Estate Wuhan Open at Yishan Golf Club. The tournament begins Thursday.
After enjoying a week off in Taiwan following his victory in Guangzhou and accepting congratulatory texts and phone calls, Chien is back to work ready to attack Yishan Golf Club, designed by Rick Robbins.
“I relaxed for a couple days after the event and took it very easy. I actually got to play golf with my uncle a couple of times during the week I was in Taiwan,” said Chien, who was born in the island nation, moved to Australia as a child, then spent his formative years in the United States, in San Diego. Chien got his first look at Yishan Golf Club Tuesday but only played nine holes due to poor weather.
“I really like the way the course is set up. It’s in awesome shape,” he noted. “There are a few demanding tee shots on the front nine, so I know that keeping the ball in play is going to be key to playing well.”
Chien is very familiar with that strategy, employing it at the Buick Open, where he gave up some distance off the tee during his victory to ensure approach shots from the fairway. “The greens here are very undulated, and I think it will be important to keep the ball on the correct side of the hole—especially when the greens get faster through the week.”
Playing this week are 16 of the top 25 on the PGA TOUR China Series’ order of merit, including six of the top-10: Chien (No. 1), Xin Jun Zhang (No. 3), Ray Beaufils (No. 5). Ze Yu He (No. 8), Hao Tong Li (No. 9) and Brad McIntosh (No. 10). Wang, also exempt on the Asian Tour, is playing in the ICTSI Philippine Open in Manila opposite the United Investment Real Estate Wuhan Open.
“The competition here is outstanding,” explained Chien, who played collegiate golf at Northwestern University outside Chicago and competed on U.S. mini-tours before embarking on his PGA TOUR China Series career in April. “That first week, we saw a 19-year-old (Wang) win by 10 shots on a tough track (Mission Hills Golf Club’s Sandbelt Trails Course), and I think by having the PGA TOUR a part of the Series, it attracts many world-class players.”
Chien, of course, is one of those, and his play in the first two weeks has proved it. After winning on the All-American Gateway Tour in Arizona in early April, he committed full time to playing the PGA TOUR China Series, and his results have been outstanding.
“I have felt very good about my game for a long time, all the way from the Asian Tour Qualifying School in February,” Chien said. At that tour’s qualifying tournament finals in Thailand, Chien shot rounds of 72-73 to miss the 36-hole cut. “Even though I fell short of getting my (Asian Tour) card, I knew my game was on the rise.
“No, I did not see this hot streak coming so fast,” Chien continued, “mainly because it was going to be a completely different environment from the U.S.—different country, courses, traveling, etc. But the win in Arizona definitely gave me the confidence I needed before leaving for the PGA TOUR China Series’ events.”
In addition to his order of merit lead, Chien also has the top scoring average on the circuit (68.88) and has been a fast starter in his first two events—shooting a 5-under 67 in the first round of the Mission Hills Haikou Open followed by an opening-round, 6-under 66 on his way to victory at the Buick Open.