Amateur Jin holds on, wins Nine Dragons Open
November 17, 2014
By Staff, PGATOUR.COM
- November 17, 2014
- The breaks went Cheng Jin's way at the Nine Dragons Open, where the amateur won the event. (Courtesy of AJGA)
JIAXING, China — Amateur Cheng Jin, who had come close to winning in his previous PGA TOUR China start, didn’t let a second chance slip away. Jin made a late birdie at the Nine Dragons Open and watched as Lucas Lee, who had led for most of the final round, finished with three consecutive bogeys. That opened the door to history as Jin became the first amateur to win a PGA TOUR China event. He defeated Sam Chien by a shot.
“I’m just so excited. I didn’t really think about winning before the week, but I played really well; especially my putting,” said Jin, who turned 16 in March. “This really gave me a lot of confidence and is a turning point for myself and for my future in golf.”
After a bogey on 15, Jin admitted winning was far from his mind. He then hit a poor tee shot on the par-3 16th but made, as he says, “a great up and down that gave me a lot of confidence.” Meanwhile, Lee was bogeying the hole, and suddenly Lee’s lead was one shot. When Lee bogeyed the par-5 17th and Jin birdied, Jin, who seemed out of contention 20 minutes earlier, suddenly was one hole away from the title, walking to the 18th tee with a one-stroke lead.
Jin, who shot a disappointing final-round, 4-over 76 at the Jianye Tianzhu Henan Open after starting the day a stroke behind the leaders—in his last start—played steady golf at Nine Dragons Golf Club and just hung in all day, recording five birdies, none bigger than his birdie on 17.
“I knew what was going on, what Lucas had done and that I had the lead, so I went to 18 and tried to do my best,” Jin added. “I didn’t really get nervous. I had two great swings and two really good putts.”
Jin putted first on 18, for birdie about 22 feet. He missed, leaving the door open for Lee, who had a 14-foot birdie look, a putt he missed. When Lee couldn’t make his par come-backer, he dropped into third place.
While Jin walked away with the crystal trophy and the bouquet of red roses, the winner’s share of the purse goes to Chien, the highest-placing professional, with Lee taking runner-up money. Chien’s payday of ￥216,000 helps move his season total to ￥532,551, pushing him into the top five on the Order of Merit from his eighth-place spot when the week began.
“This finish kind of solidifies how I’m playing. The first go-round was fun and kind of cool,” said Chien of his early part of the season that saw him win the Buick Open. “But on this golf course, that is quite a bit harder, I fought through the elements and had a good ball-striking week. I’m very satisfied with how I played.”
Players survived cold, dreary conditions all day as the cold front that came through Nine Dragons Golf Club midway through Saturday’s third round never left. There wasn’t enough fog to delay the proceedings, but it never totally lifted, giving the course a sometimes eerie feeling.
Prior to this week, Lee’s best chance at victory came in week five, at the Earls Beijing Open. Sunday’s finish was disappointingly similar. In Beijing, he had four back-nine bogeys to lose that event. At Nine Dragons, it was three late bogeys.
“I am very disappointed. Today was good until the last three holes,” said Lee. “Jin put a lot of pressure on me. He is so talented and mature. I think he will have a bright future.”
Third-round leader, Jae Ho Kim, started slowly, with bogeys on two of his first three holes. He never recovered and didn’t record his first birdie until the 15th hole. He also birdied the 16th and tied for sixth, a career-best performance.
Hao Tong Li picked up his sixth top-10 of the season. Had he started his run a little earlier, he may have made a bit more noise. Li began the day tied for 18th place and dropped to 20th place after a double bogey on No. 8 left him at 1-over for the day. From there, he played his remaining 10 holes in 8-under to finish fifth.
Because of continued wet, rainy conditions, officials allowed preferred lies for the third consecutive day.
China’s Hao Tong Li made eagles on the ninth and 12th holes Sunday, his seventh and eighth eagles of the season. He leads PGA TOUR China in that category. This is also the third time this season he has had two eagles in one round. Ironically, he eagled the ninth and 12th holes at the Lanhai Open. He also had eagles on the fifth and 15th hole in the final round of the United Investment Real Estate Wuhan Open.
Hao Tong Li opened the Nine Dragons Open with three consecutive 73s, the only time this season he’s had three consecutive over-par rounds. He shot a final-round 66—the low round of the day—to end the skid. He had back-to-back, over-par rounds in the last round of the Earls Beijing Open (74) and the first round of the Yulongwan Yunnan Open (73).
China’s Wei Jun Wu had the most interesting final-round scorecard. He had one bogey, one birdie, a double bogey, an eagle and 14 pars on his way to an even-par 72 and a tie for 48th.
Lucas Lee’s bogey-less streak ended at 40 holes, when he bogeyed his third hole Sunday. His last bogey before that came in the first round.
Taiwan’s Tsung Chieh Wang eagled the par-5 12th hole for the second consecutive day. He finished the tournament at 4-over but was 5-under on that hole for the week.
Since winning the second qualifying tournament to earn his PGA TOUR China card, Alex Hawley has had mixed results, with a tie for 13th at the Cadillac Championship his top performance. Hawley held the first-round lead and was tied for sixth when the final round began. Through seven holes, he was 3-over and falling down the scoreboard. Over his final 11 holes, he was 5-under, good for a tie for sixth, a career-best on PGA TOUR China.
Bogey-Free Rounds (2):
First Round: None
Second Round (1): Lucas Lee
Third Round (1): Lucas Lee
Fourth Round None