Huilin Zhang wins Hainan Open title
November 29, 2015
By Laury Livsey, PGATOUR.COM
- November 29, 2015
- Huilin Zhang made a late charge and shot a final-round 5-under 67 to earn the victory. (Courtesy of PGA TOUR China)
SANYA, China—When Sunday began, a player from China winning the Hainan Open seemed likely, especially with the featured grouping of 54-hole leaders Mu Hu and Zecheng Dou playing with two-time Ping An Bank China Tour – PGA TOUR China Series’ winner Xinjun Zhang.
In the end, a Chinese player prevailed, but it wasn’t any of the favorites. Huilin Zhang, anyone?
Zhang, a professional for only three years, a player who was 4-over after 36 holes and tied for 12th with 18 holes to play, shot the round of the day—and the tournament—a 5-under 67 Sunday to come from behind and win at Dragon Valley Golf Club. He finished at 2-under to defeat China’s Tian Yuan by a shot—the only two players to finish under par at a tournament where the wind battered players from Thursday’s first round until the finish.
The win is the second consecutive unlikely victory by a player from China, coming a week after unheralded Haimeng Chao won the Nine Dragons Open. Zhang’s previous-best finish on this Tour was a tie for fourth earlier this year in Beijing, at the Ping An Bank Open. Last year, his first on the PGA TOUR China Series, Zhang, no relation to Xinjun Zhang, only made four cuts in 10 starts and at one point missed five consecutive cuts.
“This tournament has given me a big reward after playing for all these years. This is going to give me a lot of confidence,” explained Zhang after receiving the winner’s trophy. “I’ve played pretty well this year, and it has exceeded my expectations, especially now with this win. I’ve improved a lot.”
The victory, worth ￥216,000, propelled Zhang into No. 7 on the Order of Merit. Zhang is ￥61,006 behind Justin Shin, who holds down the fifth and final spot for 2016 Web.com Tour membership.
Zhang birdied his first hole and made four more on his front nine, adding a 32-foot birdie putt on No. 11 and his sixth birdie of the day on the par-5 13th. After bogeys at the 14th and 15th, Zhang finished par-par-birdie.
Midway through the back nine, Dou, the 18-year-old from Henan who lost to Chao in a playoff at the Nine Dragons Open last week, appeared to have things in control, ready to seize his first Series’ title after two previous runner-up efforts. But the same holes that hurt Zhang late and caused players fits all week, Nos. 14 and 15, got Dou, as well.
Dou had recovered nicely from a double bogey-6 on his 10th hole and was two shots clear of the field when he stepped to the 14th tee. He bogeyed the par-3 then had to take an unplayable lie and a penalty on No. 15 when he hit his second shot into the trees. From there he went into the bunker, where Dou found his ball partially plugged. He blasted out and two-putted from there for triple bogey.
Dou rallied with a six-foot birdie on the par-3 17th, leaving him one shot behind Zhang, who had finished his round 45 minutes earlier. Knowing he needed to birdie 18 to force a second consecutive playoff, he had mud on his ball for his second shot, and his approach into the par-4 closing hole went left of the green.
“I was just trying to win. I was thinking of chipping in to get into a playoff,” Dou said of his 40-foot chip. Dou examined the lie and played the shot to break right to left. But he hit it too hard. The ball landed near the pin and rolled by, with Zhang standing several yards behind Dou watching the drama unfold. Dou missed the comebacker, settling for bogey and a tie for third.
Added Zhang, who, before Sunday, had never won a professional event, “The turning point of the round for me was No. 12 and 13. At that moment, I saw the leaderboard, and I knew I was 5-under. I guessed I could win the tournament when I saw my position.” He saved par on No. 17 and then birdied 18 and hoped things would fall his way. They did.
“That birdie on No. 18 was a real helping hand,” he added.
Yuan jumped into the spotlight last week early when he was the first-round leader at the Nine Dragons Open. He faded over the final 54 holes and tied for 11th. His second-place finish was easily the best performance on this Tour, bettering the ties for 10th he had this year and last.
In the history of the Ping An Bank China Tour – PGA TOUR China Series, five players from China have won a combined eight titles. Huilin Zhang is the latest to win, and he joins Xinjun Zhang, Hao Tong Li, amateur Cheng Jin and Haimeng Chao as winners from China.
It is a two-man race to see who captures the 2015 Order of Merit title and a full exemption on the 2016 Web.com Tour. Bryden Macpherson is the new money leader, taking a ￥16,750 lead over Josh Geary, who did not play in the Hainan Open. Mathematically only Geary can catch Macpherson at next week’s season finale in Dongguan. Geary had held the top spot on the Order of Merit since the third event of the season, the United Investment Real Estate Wuhan Open.
Sunday, Bryden Macpherson had four consecutive birdies, starting at No. 2. It was the second time this season the Australian has had such a streak during the final round. He also made four birdies in a row at the Chongqing Jiangnan NewTown KingRun Open, also on holes 2 through 5.
South Korea’s Yi Keun Chang earned his fourth consecutive top-10 finish with his tie for fifth at the Hainan Open. His streak began at the Lushan Open (tied for fourth), followed by a tie for 10th at the Chongqing Jiangnan NewTown KingRun Open and a tie for fifth at last week’s Nine Dragons Open. Chang is 13th on the Order of Merit—up six spots from last week.
Zecheng Dou added his sixth top-10 of the season in 11 starts, one behind leader Bryden Macpherson. Of Dou’s finishes, five of them are top-fives.
Three weeks ago, Tian Yuan was 52nd on the Order of Merit. But a tie for 11th at the Chongqing Jiangnan NewTown KingRun Open and a tie for 10th at the Nine Dragons Open, followed by this week’s runner-up finish, has vaulted him into the 21st position with one week left in the season. He’s earned ￥219,155 (approximately U.S. $36,525).
The par-4 15th hole was the most-difficult Sunday, playing to a stroke average of 4.74. For the week, there were 12 birdies there against 192 bogeys or worse.