Double delight as China’s former bad boy Zhang Xinjun joins compatriot Dou Zecheng in securing 2018 PGA Tour card

Conclusion of regular season on second-tier Web.com circuit confirms order of merit rankings ahead of final series

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 August, 2017, 2:12pm
UPDATED : Monday, 28 August, 2017, 10:24pm

From having no players competing regularly on the PGA Tour, China will have two in 2018 after Zhang Xinjun joined Dou Zecheng in securing a top-25 finish on the second-tier Web.com order of merit after the regular-season ending WinCo Foods Portland Open.

Zhang missed the cut at Pumpkin Ridge’s Witch Hollow Course, but had already done enough with four top-10 finishes this season to claim 20th place on the order of merit.

The success completes a turnaround for 30-year-old Zhang, who was banned for sixth months in 2014 after signing two incorrect scorecards during events on the PGA Tour China Series.

He was able to recover and, prior to his success on the Web.com tour, finished tied for 21st at last year’s WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai, where he played over the weekend with then world number two Rory McIlroy, then British Open champion Henrik Stenson and Olympic Games bronze medallist Matt Kuchar.

“To be honest, I was on the verge of having a breakdown,” said Zhang recently in relation to his ban having also finished fifth on the 2016 PGA Tour China Series order of merit.

“As a professional player it was unforgivable to make this kind of mistake. I have been reflecting on this mistake for three years, and until this day I’m still reluctant to mention that period, but of course this experience made me grow up.

“I started to think seriously about my relationship with golf and my responsibility and I feel really grateful to come back and I know all that I can do is to prove myself.”

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Dou finished tied for 30th place at the WinCo Foods Portland Open in the 22nd and final event of the regular tour season having already secured a top-25 finish on the order of merit by winning July’s Digital Ally Open.

The 20-year-old Dou played in all 22 regular season events on the Web.com tour this year, which included a third place finish at the The Bahamas Great Abaco Classic at The Abaco Club in the second event on the calender having qualified for the circuit as the winner of the 2016 PGA Tour China Series order of merit.

The pair now head into the four-event final series, with will determine their ranking for the 2018 season and ultimately their eligibility for events on the top-level circuit.

Dou and Zheng, though, will miss the opening event of the series as they compete at the National Games in China next week.

Dou Zecheng makes history as he becomes the first Chinese player to earn a full PGA Tour card

The finals series includes the top 75 players from the Web.com order of merit plus players ranked 126-200 on the PGA Tour order of merit following the Wyndham Championship earlier this month, as well as non-members who would have earned enough points to sit between 126-200 on the FedEx Cup list.

An additional 25 PGA Tour cards are available through the final series, which starts at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship this week.

The Albertsons Boise Open presented by Kraft Nabisco, DAP Championship and Tour Championship are the remaining finals series events.

Following the conclusion of the Tour Championship on October 1, a separate money list for the finals series will determine the additional 25 PGA Tour cards for 2018.

Dou Zecheng’s US breakthrough highlights PGA Tour’s China failure rather than shine light on a pathway to success

The final rankings of the 50 players who have earned PGA Tour cards will be determined on an alternating basis, with the top position going to the number one player from the combined regular season and finals series money list, and second position going to the leading money winner from the four final series events.

This alternating format will continue down both combined regular season and finals money lists to make up a final list of 50 players who will head to the PGA Tour next season, with eligibility and rights to play in events reducing further down the priority list.

World number 68 Li Haotong is China’s leading player, but despite his recent form which included a third place finish at the British Open, the 22-year-old only holds a European Tour card following his win at the 2016 Volvo China Open.

Dou is ranked 229th in the world, with Zhang 251st and ahead of veteran Liang Wenchong, who has dropped to 295th having achieved a career best ranking of 57th in 2010.