HONG KONG, CHINA—Hong Kong No. 1 Motin Yeung boldly declared that he’s “going for the trophy” at this week’s RMB 2 million Clearwater Bay Open in a last-gasp bid to finish in the top-five of the PGA TOUR Series-China Order of Merit and earn status on next year’s Web.com Tour.
Yeung, 25, won his first Tour title at the Kunming Championship in June and is currently seventh on the money list with RMB 522,850, more than RMB 100,000 behind fifth-placed Nick Voke of New Zealand, who has RMB 627,500.
To have a chance of overtaking Voke, Yeung needs to at least finish third at The Clearwater Bay Golf and Country Club, which would earn him RMB 136,000, while a runner-up finish (RMB 216,000) makes a top-five finish highly probable.
However, only the winner’s check (RMB 360,000) at the season-ending event would guarantee his place on next year’s Web.com Tour regardless of other players’ results.
“I just want to be in the chase. I think winning takes a lot of not just skill and your mental toughness but also luck. I think just to put myself in that situation would be a success,” said the usually laid-back Yeung, before he was pressed on his ambitions for the 72-hole tournament, which boasts the Tour’s biggest-ever purse.
“I’m going to play the best I can this week … and I’m going for the trophy.”
Yeung, who will play the first two rounds with Canada’s Richard Jung and Australia’s Kevin Yuan, has come a long way this season, having started the year without status on any Tours after missing out at the PGA TOUR Series-China International Qualifying Tournament.
After progressing through the Monday qualifier at the Chongqing Championship, the second of the Tour’s 14 events this year, he secured top-20 finishes to play in the three next events, but needed a sponsor invitation to compete in the Kunming Championship.
After an opening 70, Yeung shot three 65s to enter a three-way playoff with England’s Callum Tarren and American Joseph Gunerman, before the Hong Kong representative sank a 10-foot birdie putt at the first extra hole to secure a victory that left him in tears and celebrating with his girlfriend.
“That was a really exciting time for me,” said the Clearwater Bay ambassador, who has had three other top-10 finishes this season beside his Kunming conquest.
“I think the last time I got into contention before Kunming was when I was an amateur in 2013, so I hadn’t had that kind of feeling for about five years. It had been a long time, so I was really excited to be in the chase and hope I can feel that again this weekend.”
Shunyat “Jason” Hak, Hong Kong’s long-time No. 1 until he was overtaken in the Official World Golf Ranking by Yeung this year, is 38th in the Order of Merit with RMB 155,128, but was also single-minded when asked about his ambitions for the Clearwater Bay Open, where he finished sixth last year and tied for 20th in 2016.
“In my mind, I want to win here more than anything, more than anywhere else, because it’s my home course. People say there might be more pressure because of that, but I want to use that pressure to give confidence to myself,” said the 24-year-old Hak, who has been a Clearwater Bay ambassador since 2016.
“I know the course better than anyone and I’m looking forward to it. I just need to do the right things. Everybody in the tournament can win, so I not only need to beat the golf course but also control myself, and put myself in a better place to give myself a chance. The majority of my season didn’t go as well as I wanted, but that’s golf. We just have to keep grinding and never give up.”
Order of Merit leader Charlie Saxon played on last year’s Web.com Tour after finishing second in the money list in 2016 and is among the pre-tournament favorites after a season featuring two victories, a joint runner-up finish and four other top-10s including a third at last week’s Zhuhai Championship.
The 25-year-old American, who has won RMB 1,076,967, will have brother Henry as his caddie and parents Bruce and Jan in the crowd as he tries to secure his top place on the Order of Merit at the course where he finished third in 2016. Second-placed Callum Tarren (RMB 878,600), runner-up at last year’s Clearwater Bay Open, is the only man capable of overtaking him in the Order of Merit.
“It’s been a consistent year and I’ve been lucky to have had some success, so hopefully I can end with a bang this week,” said Saxon, who will play the first two rounds with defending champion James Marchesani of Australia and China’s Yechun “Carl” Yuan.
“I’d be lying to myself if I said I wasn’t looking over my shoulder just a little bit [at Tarren], but it’s not something I really worry about. I’m playing good golf and at the end of the day, I’m the one in the driver’s seat and he’s chasing. I’m the one in control, so if I go out and win this week, he can’t beat me.
“I’m just going to go out and keep playing the kind of golf I have been and just keep the pedal down, and trust that at the end of the week, we’ll end up in a good spot.”
The top-five on the PGA TOUR Series-China Order of Merit will automatically earn status on next year’s Web.com Tour, the top-10 will be eligible for the Final Stage of the Web.com Tour Qualifying Tournament from December 6-9 and players 11-25 will be exempt to the Second Qualifying Stage.
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.