May 22, 2019

PGA TOUR Series-China still waiting for 2019 breakout star

Max McGreevy has three top-five finishes, a tie for 12th and a tie for 19th through the first five events of 2019 (PGA TOUR Series-China/Zhang Liu)

 

NANTONG, China—PGA TOUR Series-China has held five tournaments in 2019, with the sixth event of the year—the Nantong Championship at Nantong Yangtze River Golf Club—beginning Thursday. As the season creeps toward the halfway juncture, trends are typically easy to spot. But when it comes to 2019, and PGA TOUR Series-China, if there is one theme that stands out through the first third of the season it’s that there really hasn’t been one. For instance:

  • No player has won more than once, and while there have been two American winners, champions have also come from Japan and Canada—with Luke Kwon’s victory last week in Qinhuangdao a grab bag, with Kwon, a player born in South Korea, educated in the U.S. who lives in New Zealand, the most recent winner. There has been a multi-tournament winner every year since the Tour’s inception, in 2014.
  • Even counting the five winners, there hasn’t been a consistently dominant player. David Kocher leads the Order of Merit, but he only has one other top-10 on his resume. Of the players with three top-10s, the leaders in that category, only Trevor Sluman has a win.

Despite his lack of a triumph, it’s easy to make the case that American Max McGreevy, the former Web.com Tour member who is in his first year playing in China, has been not only the most-consistent player but also the best—with three top-five finishes, a tie for 12th a tie for 19th, his worst showing of the year (at the Haikou Championship). He has a current streak of eight consecutive under-par rounds, and 16 of his 19 rounds this season have been under-par.

Sluman is another player who is likely playing the best golf of his career. Until his missed cut last week in Qinhuangdao, he had never not played on the weekend in his Series career. He is now 18 for 19. 

This week, as PGA TOUR Series-China visits Nantong for the first time, Kocher will attempt to hang on to his RMB42,755 lead over Sluman, while McGreevy, No. 5 on the Order of Merit, will be seeking his first victory. Any number of other players will be looking to make their presence felt.

Among them is perhaps the Series’ hottest player, Myles Creighton. The Canadian followed his first top-10 of the year—a tie for ninth at the Beijing Championship—with a runner-up showing last week at the Qinhuangdao Championship.

Another to watch is Japan’s Yuwa Kosaihira. Although he has 2019 Web.com Tour status, Kosaihira elected to play another season in China. He’s appeared in four tournaments this year, making the cut in all four, with a tie for fifth and a playoff loss in the Haikou Championship on his record. And unlike Sluman, Kosaihira, who also began his career in China in 2018, has never missed a cut in his career. He’s 18 for 18. 

Noticeably absent from the winner’s circle this year have been players from China. Yanwei Liu came the closest, in the season-opening Chongqing Championship. He lost to Japan’s Taihei Sato in a playoff. Liu is 10th on the Order of Merit but has only played two tournaments, not playing two events and missing the Sanya Championship to play in an Asian Tour tournament. Three other players from China—Huilin Zhang (19th), Jin Zhang (26th), Cheng Jin (28th) and Wenyi Huang (30th) are all inside the top 30 on the earnings’ chart.