June 12, 2018

Saxon starts as favorite – and lifts another trophy – as World Cup fever kicks off in Kunming

KUNMING, YUNNAN, CHINA—Runaway Order of Merit leader Charlie Saxon believes his strong track record at the Yulongwan Golf Club will help his bid to win this week’s Kunming Championship and secure a third victory in four PGA TOUR Series-China events.

Saxon, 25, finished runner-up to current PGA TOUR player Zecheng “Marty” Dou at the 2016 Yulongwan Yunnan Open and this April was solo sixth at the European Challenge Tour’s Belt and Road Colorful Yunnan Open, also at Yulongwan.

Following two wins and a tie for second in his last three PGA TOUR Series-China events, Saxon is hungry for more as he seeks to win the money list and secure a return to the Web.com Tour, the path to the PGA TOUR.

“I’ve played really good golf here and I’m comfortable around here. I nearly won in 2016, but Marty had a big finish like he always did and nipped me. This year I was 54-hole leader in the Challenge Tour event and didn’t have a great final round,” said Saxon, who has won RMB 692,335 in his five PGA TOUR Series-China events this year and is now ranked World No. 215.

“I’m still coming into every week just trying to win. I feel really good about my golf game and I know that when I’m playing well, I’ve got a good chance to get into contention. That’s what it all about – having the chance to win come Sunday. Hopefully come this Sunday I have a chance to win again.”

Saxon lifted another trophy on Tuesday as he captained the International team to victory in a friendly World Cup Challenge against China.

Saxon and English duo Steve Lewton and William Harrold competed against Team China’s Zihao Chen, Yu Yao and Motin Yeung in an impromptu three-on-three contest before a more formal footgolf target challenge and putting contest with mini footballs, with Lewton winning both contests for the men in blue.

Lewton, who has two top-10s this year, and Harrold, fifth on the Order of Merit after two runner-up finishes, are again keen for an English player to finally win on the Tour and hoped the backdrop of the World Cup in Russia could prove an inspiration.

This week’s English contingent was expanded to seven after James Maw won the Monday qualifier with a 6-under 65, having tied for 10th at the season-opening Chengdu Championship after also progressing through qualifying.

Callum Tarren, eighth on the 2016 money list and currently 10th this year, Michael Skelton, Adam Sagar and Alex Belt, joint sixth in Guilin last week, are the other Englishmen in the 156-player field.

Lewton, who supports Manchester United, is hoping he or one of his compatriots will be lifting the trophy on Sunday.

“I think there’s quite a few of us playing this week and we’ve all been playing pretty good, so hopefully one of us can break through this week and get a win,” said Lewton, whose friend Harrold caddied for him in Guilin last weekend after missing the cut.

“Obviously, William’s been playing really well this year, so it was nice to have someone with a good bit of experience on the bag. It was really good fun.”

Harrold, a Norwich City supporter, started the year with two seconds, and is hoping that clearing his mind of any expectations can help him rediscover his early season form.

“It would be awesome to have an English winner, but for me, the way to get there is to not worry about that. I’m not trying to think too much about my own game and go back to what I was doing the first couple of weeks,” said Harrold, nicknamed the ‘Swinging Farmer’ after his dad, a musician nicknamed the ‘Singing Farmer’.

“Personally, I’ll be hoping for nothing, like I did the first couple of weeks where I didn’t really care too much. I just want to try and forget about where I am and try to have some fun.”

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.