SUZHOU, China— In front of a packed grandstand on Jinji Lake International Golf Club’s closing hole, France’s Cyril Bouniol drained a pressure-packed 20-foot par putt to secure a one-shot victory at the Suzhou Open, and become the first player from Europe to win on the PGA TOUR Series-China.
It was a dramatic finish as American Trevor Sluman, who was playing two groups in front of Bouniol, birdied holes 16 and 17 to card a 65 and post at 17-under, enough to put the pressure on the Frenchman as he was coming down the stretch. At first t didn’t seem like it would be enough as Bouniol cruised to 5-under through 13 holes, but a bogey on the 14th followed by a three-putt on 17 reduced his lead to just one heading into what he called the “toughest hole” on the course. Bouniol knew he needed to get up and down for par from the fringe to avoid a playoff, but a mis-hit on his chip left him with a difficult putt from 20 feet. He calmly made the putt to the delight of the cheering fans.
“That three-putt on 17 was not good especially since I knew that hole 18 is by far the toughest hole on the golf course,” said Bouniol. “I was aware that I needed to get up and down to win, but my chip on 18 was horrible. I just tried to laugh it off and knew that I still had a chance to make a putt. That definitely wasn’t the easy way to win, but I’m very glad that putt dropped.”
Bouniol played a full season on the European Tour in 2015 and is playing in his first year in China after he earned his Tour card through Q-School. Now halfway through the season, Bouniol admits that this was the boost he needed as the 31-year-old hopes to play on the 2020 Web.com Tour in the U.S., where he currently resides with his wife, Sharlotte.
“I’ve been wanting it bad. I’ve been wanting to win real bad over the past couple years, and it’s tough. I’ve put a lot of hard work in, and whenever you have a chance, you have to seize it,” added Bouniol. “I’m just glad I can get that win off my chest, and it’s perfect timing, halfway through the season. I’m hoping for a strong finish to the season, and I want to win the Order of Merit.”
Ireland’s Niall Turner (69) chipped in for birdie on the final hole to finish third, at 15-under, with Japan’s Kenta Endo (69), one shot ahead of England’s Stephen Lewton (67) and Americans Michael Perras (65) and Matt Gilchrest (72).
The top-five players on this season’s Order of Merit will earn membership on the 2020 Web.com Tour, the “Pathway to the PGA TOUR,” while finishers 6-10 will earn direct entry into the Web.com Tour Final Qualifying Tournament.