October 9, 2019

A lot on the line in Macau

MACAU, China—The stakes are high as the PGA TOUR Series-China enters its 13th and final event of 2019. As the season-ending event, officials raised the purse of the Macau Championship to a record RMB 2.1 million, giving players a chance for one final push to try and earn Korn Ferry Tour membership and pursue their goals of playing on the PGA TOUR.

With a winner’s check of RMB 378,000 up for grabs, the pressure is high as players look to finish inside the top 10 on the Order of Merit. The No. 1 finisher on the money list after this week will earn full playing rights for the 2020 Korn Ferry Tour, while finishers 2-5 will earn membership. Players 6-10 will bypass the second stage of the Korn Ferry Tour Qualifying Tournament and earn direct entry into the Final Stage in Florida in December.

This week, the field is capped at 120 players, and they will battle it out at Caesars Golf Macau, located ideally near downtown, with backdrops of huge, five-star resorts and casinos. The course is short but offers a links-style test with no tree lines, which can be extremely challenging when the wind picks up.

As it stands, American Max McGreevy has a sizable RMB 177,258 lead on the Order of Merit over compatriot Trevor Sluman, but as fans saw in 2018, nothing is guaranteed. At the Tour’s final event of 2018, Charlie Saxon also held a big lead over Callum Tarren before the Englishman fired a final-round 62 to finish solo second in the tournament and steal the No. 1 spot.

However, a similar scenario appears unlikely as McGreevy, who played at the University of Oklahoma with Saxon, has been the most-consistent player of the year with nine top-10 finishes. He now looks primed to return to the Korn Ferry Tour, where he played a full season in 2018.

Behind McGreevy and Sluman on the Order of Merit are American David Kocher (RMB 755,640), South Korean Luke Kwon (RMB 594, 597), and France’s Cyril Bouniol (RMB 574,168). If everything plays out right, either Kocher or Kwon could also end up taking the No. 1 position, while Bouniol cannot mathematically catch McGreevy and will focus on trying to keep his spot inside the top five.

Perhaps just as important are the players ranked 6-10 on the Order of Merit as they will be looking to break inside the top-five or at least remain inside the top 10. The 6-through-10 players include Zhengkai Bai (RMB 535,085), Yuwa Kosaihira (RMB 529, 298), Kevin Techanaknokboon (RMB 480,931), Joey Lane (RMB 465,328) and Richard Jung (RMB 465,244).

In 2018, Canada’s Jung was 10th on the Order of Merit heading into the final event but finished the season 11th. Now Jung is again in the vulnerable 10th position, meaning a bad week could allow someone else to take his spot and leave him just short of his goal for a second consecutive year.

Not only is there is a lot on the line for players at the top but players further down on the Order of Merit will be feeling the need to step up as only the top-50 on the Order of Merit retain their 2020 Tour cards. Finishing outside the top 50 could mean a trip to Q-School at the start of 2020.

Currently Australian Kevin Yuan sits 50th on the Order of Merit while top Hong Kong players Jason Hak and Matthew Cheung lie 53rd and 60th, respectively. Cheung finished solo fourth at the Tour’s last event, in Zhuzhou, and he will be hoping for a clutch finish and plenty of momentum to end his first season as a professional.