Cheng Jin making his professional debut has been the main focus of attention this week, but teenage amateur Enqi Liang is trying to steal some of the spotlight after an impressive tournament low, 4-under 66 reduced Jin’s lead to just two strokes heading into the final round of the PGA TOUR Series-China Mainland China Qualifying Tournament.
A native of Guangzhou, Liang, who only turned 17 last August, has been improving all week after rounds of 73-72-66 and is now looking to challenge Jin’s hopes of a wire-to-wire victory heading into the final round at Foison Golf Club.
However, Jin, who started the day with a five-stroke lead, still remains in the driver’s seat after carding a 69 and is virtually assured of locking up one of 12 full cards available this week. Finishers 13-35, including ties, will be conditionally exempt for the first six events.
Jin, who turned pro roughly two weeks ago after playing two and half years at the University of Southern California, was full of praise of his playing partner’s performance.
“Liang is a great player, and he shot a 66 today. He’s very solid, and I knew him quite well already,” said Jin. “He’s a little younger so I’m more like an elder brother to him. I’m very happy to see the younger generation in China playing great golf.”
Despite not taking all his chances, Jin, who won the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in 2015, is happy with where he stands after carding four birdies against three bogeys.
“It’s been a good week, I can’t really complain. Today I had a lot of opportunities but didn’t really make anything, and I came back 1-under so I’m happy with that,” said Jin. “Hopefully I can make more putts [Friday] and keep hitting the ball well.”
Liang, who is hoping to play a full year on the Tour, opened with three birdies in his first four holes and then made the turn at 3-under after following a bogey on hole 8 with a birdie. He picked up his fifth birdie, on No. 15, before closing his round with bogey-birdie.
“The PGA TOUR Series-China is a very good platform, which would give me great experience,” said Liang. “I really enjoy the atmosphere of their tournaments. If there are no special circumstances, I am planning to give priority to this Tour.”
Now Liang is excited to have the opportunity to play another round with Jin as he looks to shoot another low score.
“He is a very good player and I learned a lot from him. We are friends and I am very close with his brother, so I was very happy to play with him. I shot 66 today so we will see if I can do it again tomorrow.”