CHONGQING, CHINA—USA’s Jeffrey Kang starts this week’s RMB 1.5 million Chongqing Championship at Poly Golf Club aiming to become the first back-to-back winner on the PGA TOUR Series-China since current PGA TOUR player Zecheng “Marty” Dou achieved the feat in May 2016.
Kang, 26, tees off on Thursday as the favorite in China’s “Mountain City” after his five-stroke victory at last week’s season-opening Chengdu Championship, having won the Tour’s first International Qualifying Tournament in Haikou last month.
After a triple bogey in his opening 74 in Chengdu “woke me up”, Kang put together stunning rounds of 64, 66 and 64 to post a 20-under winning total on his Tour debut and now leads the Order of Merit with RMB 270,000.
Dou won the Tour’s first two events in 2016 and eventually won four titles to top the money list and progress to last year’s Web.com Tour and then the 2017/18 PGA TOUR, along with compatriot Xinjun Zhang. Kang was upfront about his chances of emulating the young Chinese star’s back-to-back successes.
“I think I have the best chance of anybody playing this week,” Kang laughed. “I’ve won back-to-back on mini tours back home. It’s definitely possible. It’s a lot of the same guys as last week, so I’ve definitely got a good chance.”
However, after playing 10 holes of Poly Golf Club’s 7,236-yard South Course, the Los Angeles-based Korean-American said he’s unlikely to match the 20-under total he set at Luxehills International Country Club in Chengdu.
“I haven’t seen the whole course yet, but I think I can get to 15-under, maybe. It depends on the green speeds and how they set it up. It’s definitely a little bit more complicated around the greens,” said Kang, who’s on a run of good form after shooting 13-under over 72 holes at Q-School.
“The greens are sloping and also quite big, and there are sections you just can’t be, so I think your iron shots into the green are going to be important. Scoring wise, I think it’s definitely possible to get to 14, 15-under,” he added.
“Last week, I didn’t think 20-under was possible, but the conditions changed with the overnight rain and opened up more chances for birdies. I see 15 here. That would be a good number.”
Kang will play the first two rounds with England’s William Harrold, joint runner-up in Chengdu, and tall American Joseph Winslow, who tied for eighth last week.
A week after Kang won the first International Qualifying Tournament at Mission Hills Haikou’s Sandbelt Trails course, the 6-foot-5 Winslow won the second Q-School at the same venue. Winslow believes it could be his turn to lift a trophy this week, especially after appearing to find a solution to his putting woes in Chengdu.
“I’ve been looking forward to this tournament since we finished in Chengdu because I found a little thing in my putting at the end, which I was excited about. Putting was the big reason I didn’t end up on top of the leaderboard, because traditionally I’m a very good putter and I was a little sloppy on the greens,” said Winslow, who also holds status on PGA TOUR Latinoamerica.
“I was really excited coming off the 18th green having made putts of about 15 feet on 15, 16 and 18. I hadn’t seen those go in all week. This course is a beautiful design, a beautiful property and I’m just forward to getting the week going.”
Changping Chen missed the cut in Chengdu, but is looking to make the most of his local knowledge this week, having worked at Poly Golf Club for six years.
“Jeffrey played very well last week and that was a great score. This week, the green speed is fast and the greens are very sloping, very challenging,” Chen said.
“The course condition is very good and I think all the players will enjoy it. As a representative of the club, I’m really excited about welcoming players from so many different nationalities this week.”
Four Englishmen hot off good finishes in Chengdu are all hoping to become the first player from their country to win on the PGA TOUR Series-China.
Callum Tarren has finished solo or tied second in his last four PGA TOUR Series-China events, while Harrold was joint runner-up and Stephen Lewton and James Maw tied for 10th on their Tour debut in Chengdu. Lewton, a former European Tour player, and Harrold both also hold Asian Tour cards, while Maw played several European Challenge Tour events last year.
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.
PGA TOUR Series-China 2018: First eight of 14 events
March 15-18: Chengdu Championship, Luxehills International Country Club, Chengdu, Sichuan
March 22-25: Chongqing Championship, Poly Golf Club, Chongqing
May 3-6: Changsha Championship, Hunan Dragon Lake International Golf Club, Changsha, Hunan
May 10-13: Haikou Championship, Sunac Haikou 3KM Golf, Haikou, Hainan
June 7-10: Guilin Championship, Guilin Landscape Golf Club, Guilin, Guangxi
June 14-17: Kunming Championship, Kunming Yulongwan Golf Club, Kunming, Yunnan
July 12-15: Yantai Championship, Yantai Nanshan Mashanzhai Golf Club, Yantai, Shandong
July 19-22: Qingdao Championship, Tiger Beach Golf Links, Qingdao, Shandong