April 14, 2019

David Kocher wins Haikou Championship in playoff

HAIKOU, China—America’s David Kocher won his biggest event as a professional when he triumphed in a playoff over Japan’s Yuwa Kosaihira at the weather-affected Haikou Championship, the third event of this year’s PGA TOUR Series-China. 

The third round resumed this morning at 7:20 due to Saturday’s weather delays, and the final round started shortly after at 7:30 a.m., in a bid to finish the tournament before anticipated lightning in the afternoon. Groupings stayed the same for the third and fourth rounds.

Kocher and Kosaihira, who were playing in the seventh- and sixth-to-last-groups, respectively, both carded final-round, 6-under 66s at Sunac Haikou 3KM Golf Club, but it was Kosaihira who had the first look at victory. After Kocher set the early clubhouse lead at 10-under, Kosaihira hit the flagstick with his approach on hole 18, which left him with a 15-foot putt to overtake Kocher. But the putt wasn’t to be.

After the final groups failed to match the clubhouse leaders, Kocher and Kosaihira then headed to a playoff, which landed comfortably on Kocher’s lap after Kosaihira lost his ball on the tee shot when it bounced off the cartpath and into the bushes. Kosaihira went on to make a double bogey while Kocher sunk his 10-foot birdie putt, the win coming a little less than a year since he graduated from the University of Maryland, in 2018.

Kocher, who celebrated his 23rd birthday Saturday, was thrilled to win, especially in the way he did. After starting the final round with eight straight pars, Kocher picked up his first birdie on hole 9, which got his momentum going as he played the back nine flawlessly, picking up five more birdies in a bogey-free round.

It was a sensational performance by Kocher, who only earned conditional status at Q-School in February. At the PGA TOUR Series-China’s season-opening event in Chongqing, he progressed through a Monday qualifier and finished third before another top-20 finish last week in Sanya helped him earn his place in this week’s event.

“No more Monday qualifiers. That’s a huge plus, and I can book my trips and not have to think about coming early for Mondays and it’s a great positive,” said Kocher, who has already exceeded his goals for the year. “It feels awesome. My goal for this year was just to finish in the top 25 and get to second stage (of the Web.com Tour Final Qualifying Tournament), so I think this win will give me a huge boost. I can set some new goals.”

Kocher is no stranger to winning golf tournaments. As an amateur, he won the North Carolina Open in both 2016 and 2017 while still enrolled at the University of Maryland and won again on the GPro Tour at Mimosa Hills Country Club after he graduated in 2018. He admits those wins don’t even compare.

“This is definitely the biggest win of my career, and it feels the best. I’m really happy with where my game is at. I’ve been playing well this whole year, so it’s definitely a big confident boost,” said Kocher, who doesn’t have any plans to rest after three consecutive events in China. “I’ll celebrate a little bit tonight and then have an early flight home (to the U.S.) [Monday] morning and then celebrate with friends and family there.”

Singapore’s Quincy Quek, who was playing in the final group, came up one shot short of a playoff after carding a 68 to finish solo third, one stroke ahead of former PGA TOUR player Justin Hicks, who finished strong with a tournament low, 7-under 65. Australia’s James Marchesani shot a 72 to finish fifth, at 7-under, one ahead of three players in a tie for sixth.