July 5, 2018

Charlie Saxon leads Yantai Championship field as Gunn Charoenkul returns

Top 20 on Order of Merit all confirmed for PGA TOUR Series-China’s first event in Shandong since 2014, with the Ian Woosnam-designed course at Yantai Nanshan Mashanzai Golf Club presenting a scenic, seaside test

YANTAI, SHANDONG, CHINA—World No. 204 Charlie Saxon of the U.S.A. heads a strong field for next week’s RMB 1.5 million Yantai Championship, the seventh event on this year’s PGA TOUR Series-China.

Two-time winner Gunn Charoenkul, seventh on the Order of Merit in 2016, will compete on the Series for the first time this season, the 26-year-old Thai having played much of the year on the Japan Golf Tour.

Headed by Saxon with RMB 758,335 from six events, the top 20 players on the Order of Merit have all confirmed their participation for the July 12-15 event, which will be held over the Ian Woosnam-designed course at Yantai Nanshan Mashanzai Golf Club.

The event in the north-eastern port city tees off a three-week run that also includes the Qingdao Championship (July 19-22), also in Shandong province, and Beijing Championship (July 26-29).

The Yantai Championship marks the Tour’s first event in Shandong since 2014 when Korean Todd Baek – currently third in the money list – emerged victorious on his way to finishing fifth on the Order of Merit and progressing to the Web.com Tour, where he played two full seasons.

This year, four-time winner Saxon leads the charge for the top-five – who will all earn status on next year’s Web.com Tour – following two victories and a runner-up finish, while fourth-placed Jeffrey Kang is also among six Americans in the top 20. In 2016, Saxon finished second behind current PGA TOUR player Zecheng “Marty” Dou in the Order of Merit and joined the young Chinese star on the Web.com Tour last year.

Motin Yeung shot up to second place in this year’s money list with his victory at last month’s Kunming Championship and is joined in the top 20 by Hong Kong teammate Shunyat “Jason” Hak (19th).

The top 10 features players representing eight countries and regions, and includes English duo Callum Tarren and William Harrold (fifth and sixth), China’s Yi Cao (seventh), Japan’s Taihei Sato (eighth), Canada’s Justin Shin (ninth) and Chinese Taipei’s Chiehpo “Max” Lee (10th).

Yi is joined by Chinese compatriots Jin Zhang (11th) and Daxing Jin (17th) in the top 20, which also features Japan’s Yuwa Kosaihira (12th), Italy’s Aron Zemmer (14th) and Australian Max McCardle (16th).

Malaysia’s Arie Irawan will play in Yantai as he marks his return to the Tour after a tie for fourth at last month’s Guilin Championship. Singapore’s Jesse Yap will look to build on his 11th-place finish in Kunming, while Indonesia’s Rory Hie is also among the Southeast Asian contingent.

Singapore No. 2 Quincy Quek, who is 29th on the Order of Merit after a tie for sixth in Kunming, will miss the Yantai Championship, but will compete in Qingdao and Beijing.

Kang won the season-opening Chengdu Championship in March and was followed by fellow winners Yi (Chongqing Championship), Saxon (Changsha Championship, Guilin Championship), Baek (Hainan Championship) and Yeung (Kunming Championship).

Every tournament on this year’s PGA TOUR Series-China offers RMB 1.5 million, a 25-percent increase over purse levels from 2016. 

The PGA TOUR established PGA TOUR Series-China in 2014 as its third international developmental tour, following in the footsteps of PGA TOUR Latinoamerica and the Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada. Since its inception, PGA TOUR Series-China players have received Official World Golf Ranking points for top finishes at official tournaments.