Amateur Jin makes history by taking lead
September 26, 2014
- September 26, 2014
- Amateur Cheng Jin shot 69 in the second round.
ZHENGZHOU, China -- Every afternoon in Singapore, amateur Cheng Jin gets on his bike and pedals to the golf course to practice. Jin would travel by car to the course—if he had a driver’s license. But he’s only 16, not old enough to drive.
His age, however, doesn’t preclude him from leading a professional golf tournament.
Jin made history Friday by becoming the first amateur to hold a lead at a PGA TOUR China Series’ event. The teenager takes a one-shot advantage over Brett Drewitt, Hoon Heui Lee and first-round leader Shih Chang Chan heading into the weekend at the Jianye Tianzhu Henan Open. China’s Hao Tong Li is alone in fifth place, two shots behind Jin.
This week, instead of riding his bike to the course, Jin takes a shuttle bus from his hotel to St. Andrews Zhengzhou Golf Club. So his travel routine is a bit different—as are his two rounds at this, the ninth event of the PGA TOUR China Series’ schedule. After his 4-under 68 left him one stroke off Chan’s 18-hole lead, Jin followed with a 69—a round that came complete with a little variety.
Playing the St. Andrews course’s back nine first, Jin went out and made nine consecutive pars. To seemingly spice up his round, Jin jumped off the par train over his final nine. He birdied his 10th and 11th holes, making a pair of six-foot putts before dropping a shot at the par-3 fourth (his 13th). He recovered nicely with a birdie on the next hole then parred his next three. He assumed the lead for good with a birdie on his final hole of the day.
“I played very well these two rounds, especially my putting. My putting has been very good my last two events,” explained Jin, who tied for 13th in the Series’ last event, the Cadillac Championship. “I’ve focused a lot on putting. I practice a lot every day, and it’s quite helpful,”
Drewitt, who turned pro in 2013, has been a consistent force this season, a year that includes his first professional victory and a No. 4 position on the Order of Merit. After tying for fourth at the second qualifying tournament in March that gave him his PGA TOUR China Series’ playing card, Drewitt tied for 54th at the season-opening Mission Hills Haikou Open. That is easily his lowest finish of the season, with nothing worse than a tie for 21st since, including his victory at the United Investment Real Estate Wuhan Open in May and two additional top-10s.
“I got off to a good start and sort of kept it going,” said Drewitt following his tournament-best, 7-under 65 Friday that started with a 20-foot birdie putt on his opening hole. “I drove the ball really well today, and my iron play was OK. I putted a lot better today and gave myself a lot of opportunities.”
Drewitt opened with that birdie and then ended his round in the same fashion, canning a 10-foot effort on his 18th hole. His biggest disappointment? A missed short eagle putt on the par-5 16th,where he tapped in for birdie. “The greens are tricky. You have to be careful with your pace otherwise you’re going to have four- and five-footers coming back,” he said as a possible explanation for the missed eagle chance. Watching the action from the gallery was Drewitt’s mother, who received a long hug from her son following his round.
“I’ve got my mom along this week, so hopefully I can go out and get a W for her,” Drewitt added.
Sitting at 6-under and tied for second with Chan and Drewitt is Lee. The 26-year-old was also 6-under at the halfway point of the Earls Beijing Open in June but was only tied for eighth through 36 holes, six shots behind eventual winner Xin Jun Zhang. Lee is in much better position this week after carding just one bogey in his first two rounds as he hopes to improve on the tie for seventh he had in Beijing, his top showing of the season.
The cut came at 7-over 151, tying for the second-highest cut this season. Only the 8-over cutline at the United Investment Real estate Wuhan Open was higher.
Fog on the course delayed the start of the first round by 20 minutes.
The four players at the top of the leaderboard all come from different countries. Leader Cheng Jin is from China, while those tied for second are from Australia (Brett Drewitt), South Korea (Hoon Heui Lee) and Taiwan (Shih Chang Chan).
China’s Xu Wang is easily having his best tournament of the season. Wang, of Beijing, made his debut at the Buick Open in April and missed the cut. That trend continued, as he sat home on the weekend in his next five starts. At the Cadillac Championship two weeks ago, Wang made his first cut and went on to tie for 57th. Friday, Wang shot his first sub-70 round of his season, a 6-under 66. He’s tied for sixth with 36 holes to play.
While Xu Wang opened 74-66, his eight-shot improvement is not the best of the tournament. That distinction belongs to the Philippines’ Eric Mina, who fired a 7-over 79 over his first 18 holes and then proceeded to knock 12 strokes off that score in the second round. Mina, who played collegiately at the University of California, had five birdies and no bogeys for his 67. He’s tied for 32nd after making his fourth consecutive cut. Hai Meng Chao opened with a 78 and improved his score by 11 strokes in the second round. Chao made five birdies and no bogeys on his way to a 67. He’s tied for 27th at the halfway mark. Countryman Shao Cai He also opened with a 78 and was nine shots better Friday after posting a 69.
While still within striking distance of the leaders (he’s tied for eight), Bryden MacPherson saw his streak of six consecutive under-par rounds end Friday when he shot a 1-over 73, his first over-par round since he shot a 1-over 73 on the opening day of the Yulongwan Yunnan Open.
The only other amateur to make the cut this week is Zi Hao Chen, who sits at 4-over. He has turned in rounds of 73-75, two weeks after recording his top PGA TOUR China Series’ finish—a tie for fifth at the Cadillac Championship.
Ze Cheng Dou’s runner-up performance at the Buick Open in April is still the best finish by an amateur this season. Dou also tied for fifth at the Lanhai Open, matching Zi Hao Chen’s tie for fifth at the Cadillac Championship.
The 12th hole was the most-difficult hole of the day. The par-4 played to a stroke average of 4.36. Three holes (Nos. 12, 5 and 14) all played more difficult Friday than No. 17, the toughest hole on day one.
Bogey-free rounds (6)
First Round (1): Bryden MacPherson
Second Round (5): Hai Meng Chao, Brett Drewitt, Hoon Heui Lee, Lucas Lee, Eric Mina