PGA TOUR record holder Guan among top-15 players to earn full 2020 status
GUANGZHOU, China—Rutgers University senior Zhijie Jiang shot a closing, 2-over 73, and despite his struggles Friday, it was still enough to secure a one-shot, wire-to-wire, victory over Yichen Wang at the PGA TOUR Series-China Mainland China Qualifying Tournament in Guangzhou.
After an opening 66, Jiang carded rounds of 71-69 over his next 36 holes to hold a commanding five-shot advantage with one round to play at Foison Golf Club. Wang came close to catching Jiang at the end after making five consecutive birdies on the back nine (holes 13-17) that helped him shoot a closing 64. Even with those late heroics, he fell one shot short of Jiang.
The top-15 finishers all earned full status for the 2020 season, while those in the 16th-through-45th positions picked up conditional membership status.
Amateur Junyi Tang shot a 68 to take third, at 2-under, four ahead of Yaqiao Li (75), Aaron Du (73) and Xi Pu (74). Sixteen-year-old Pu was the youngest player in the field.
Tianlang Guan, who made headlines when he made the cut at the 2013 Masters and Zurich Classic of New Orleans at age 14, tied for 10th after rounds of 72-71-72-79.
Jiang was in the driver’s seat from the beginning, leading by one shot after the first round, holding a three-stroke advantage at the halfway point and the five-shot lead with a round to play. After making the turn at even-par Friday and seemingly coasting, Jiang birdied hole 12 but dropped three shots in two holes after he followed a double bogey on hole 13 with a bogey on 14. Meanwhile, Wang was making his charge.
“I had a ruling on 13 and still made an up-and-down (for bogey), and then I hit it out of bounds on the next hole. I almost made a good bogey, but I made a double,” said Jiang. “Even thought that happened, I still made a lot of good strokes out there and a lot of putts dropped, so it was a good week.”
Despite having full status, Jiang, a 2019 Ping Northeast All-Region selection player at Rutgers, is excited to return to New Jersey for his final semester as he hopes to help his team reach new heights. He will turn pro following the conclusion of the college season.
“My game is good, and it’s a nice little confidence boost going back to college,” said Jiang. “We were pretty close to being a regional (qualifying) team, and hopefully we can finish strong in the spring and we’ll get to play in regionals and nationals in the postseason. We’ve never made it there and I would like to be a part of it.” Jiang was teammates for two seasons at Rutgers with Toks Pedro, who played on PGA TOUR Series-China in 2019.
Guan, who holds the PGA TOUR record for youngest player to make a cut, is contemplating his future and will have some important decisions to make soon. The University of Arizona sophomore admits he is leaning toward turning pro and has already examined the PGA TOUR Series-China’s schedule.
“It feels pretty good to get full status. I didn’t really play my best today but I got the job done,” said Guan. “I think I will turn pro soon. There’s a good chance I might play the event in Sanya (the season-opener), but I still need some time to think about everything. I might also balance schoolwork and play professional events.”
The first Global Q-School will begin next month at Mission Hills Resort Haikou in China (February 25-28), an event open to all players except those from Mainland China. The second and final Global Q-School will take place at Laguna Golf Phuket in Thailand (March 3-6). The Series announced its schedule Thursday, and the slate consists of 14 events, including the Phuket Championship (May 11-17) which will be the Tour’s first regular season event outside Greater China.
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.
“It feels good to get full status. That was my plan, to come back and play PGA TOUR Series-China after I graduate so it was a good experience.” – Zhijie Jiang
“I think my first PGA TOUR Series-China event will be in the beginning of June. That’s the plan right now, but we will see.” – Zhijie Jiang
“My game was OK this week. The first three rounds I played sort of normal. I had a couple of bad breaks today, so it could always be better.” – Tianlang Guan
“Today there was a hole where my ball clipped the tree, and I had to go back and play it as an unplayable. Despite that it was good to bounce back and play the last few holes pretty well.” – Tianlang Guan
“Obviously, playing the Masters in 2013 was a great memory and a great experience. I try to use that to keep pushing me.” – Tianlang Guan
“I’ve spoken to Marty Dou a bit about what it’s like to play on the Korn Ferry Tour and PGA TOUR. I played quite a lot with him when we were kids, and he’s doing pretty well. It’s good to see some people I know and see more and more Chinese players in the big leagues.” – Tianlang Guan
“I didn’t take the expectations too seriously. In golf there are always going to be highs and lows, and I think that I’m trending in the right direction now.” – Tianlang Guan on the high expectations after his early success as a teenager
“I always want to improve my game. I think that’s the biggest thing, whether I stay amateur or turn pro. There’s still a long way to go, so I want to keep improving.” – Tianlang Guan