January 9, 2020

Jiang extends lead at Q-School with brother on bag

Liu retires ahead of final round due to extreme arm pain

GUANGZHOU, China—Rutgers University senior Zhijie “Tony” Jiang extended his lead to five strokes heading into the final day of the PGA TOUR Series-China Mainland China Qualifying Tournament after posting a 2-under 69 Thursday.

With the help of his brother, Zhikun, as his caddie, Jiang carded two bogeys and four birdies to move to 7-under and on track for a wire-to-wire victory at Foison Golf Club. 

China’s Yaqiao Li shot a 70 and is in second, one stroke ahead of Xi Pu (69), who, at age 16, is the youngest player in the field. Amateurs Aaron Du (73) and Junyi Tang (70) lie in fourth and fifth, respectively, with Tianlang Guan (72) in sixth.

Siyun Liu, who was bidding to make history by becoming the first female to earn status on a PGA TOUR-sanctioned Tour, withdrew following her round due to a recurring wrist injury. Liu was tied for 23rd and on track to at least earn conditional status. The Wake Forest University senior decided a healthy return to help her Demon Deacon teammates have a shot at the NCAA Championships is her main priority. Last year, Wake Forest finished second to Duke University.

Even with his commanding lead, Jiang didn’t have the best start to the third round, making a bogey on his opening hole after putting his ball in the left-side bunker on his first shot of the day. He went on to make one more bogey (at No. 8), his lone front-nine birdie coming at that sixth. He added three birdies over his final nine holes, all of them coming toward the end of the day, leading to his five-shot advantage. Jiang’s birdies came at Nos. 14, 16 and 17 for a clean back-nine scorecard of six pars and three birdies.

“I had a tough start and hit it in the bunker on my first hole. I made a bad chip but got away with a bogey,” said Jiang. “On the last five holes, I made three birdies, so it was nice to end the day solid.”

It’s no surprise to see the 21-year-old in front considering he was a 2019 Ping Northeast All-Region selection playing at Rutgers University in New Jersey. He is maintaining a trend of success by U.S. college players at this event. Cheng Jin, who played collegiately at USC, won here in 2018 and 2019.

While Jiang’s college eligibility is over, Guan will have a decision to make as the sophomore is poised to earn Tour membership with his solid play this week. The youngest player to make a cut in a PGA TOUR event (the 2013 Masters Tournament and the 2013 Zurich Classic of New Orleans) can either remain an amateur and play PGA TOUR Series-China events at the conclusion of the University of Arizona spring season, or he can turn pro and begin playing in March when the season begins. Jin withdrew from school last year and turned pro after winning the 2019 Mainland China Qualifying Tournament.