KUNMING, YUNNAN, CHINA—After just 2½ hours of sleep on Sunday night due to travel delays, England’s James Maw was
“annoyed” after his 6-under 65 topped the 18-hole Monday qualifier for this week’s RMB 1.5 million Kunming Championship, the sixth event of this year’s PGA TOUR Series-China.
Five Chinese players were among the top-10 to earn spots in the 156-man field at Kunming Yulongwan Golf Club, along with two Americans and two South Koreans. Chinese trio Chao Song, Song Zhu and amateur Qiang Liu all shot 67 to tie for second with Korea’s Junhyuk Lee and American Harry Boyd.
China’s Yuezu Tao, Korean Minsu Jung and American James Back each carded 68 to share seventh, one ahead of Chinese amateur Han Xue, who earned the final spot by winning a three-person playoff played over four holes.
Maw, who turned 29 on Friday, defied rainy conditions to record eight birdies and an eagle – and even had a 59 in his sights midway through his second nine.
After birdies on his opening hole at 10, 13, 14 and three in a row from 16, he bogeyed the first. However, he eagled the par-5 third to go to 7-under and followed up with two more birdies to get to 9-under, but narrowly missed a third straight birdie before suffering a double bogey on the seventh and a bogey on his closing hole.
“I was 6-under after nine and I had an 8-footer to go 10-under on my 15th and it just barely lipped out,” said Maw, who progressed through qualifying before sharing 10th place at the season-opening Chengdu Championship.
“After that, I think my body realized how tired I was because I started chasing a bit for the 59 and then I hit one about 50 yards off line and lost a ball. It’s annoying, though; I think I could have had a 59.”
Boyd, who was Head Instructor at the Mission Hills Golf Club in Shenzhen for nearly seven years, says using his Chinese language skills to get tips from caddies was key to his low score.
“I spoke to my caddie in Chinese today and it helped a lot. There’s at least six or seven holes that, because of him, I gave myself good chances to make birdies,” said Boyd.
“I made a change to my swing recently and today was a day that I just committed to everything. I took my time with the rain and just trusted myself.”
Liu, 33, will make his Tour debut on Thursday after carding four birdies and an eagle and the Chinese amateur is thrilled to be playing in his first professional golf event.
“I used to want to be a professional golfer, but I decided to teach golf and work for a business instead. Now that I have the chance to play golf again, I’m very excited.”
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.