China’s Dou Zecheng eyes Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games berth after rankings rise
The 19-year-old PGA Tour China Series order of merit leader is now the mainland’s second highest ranked player behind Wu Ashun
New teenage China number two Dou Zecheng will not pay much attention to the world rankings until they matter – when it comes time to decide who will represent the Olympic-mad nation at the 2020 Games in Tokyo.
With the game returning to the fold for the first time in 112 years in Rio de Janeiro in August, golf's pecking order has taken on an added meaning with selection for the 60-man field in Brazil determined by the world rankings.
Wu Ashun and Li Haotong were China’s two representatives in Brazil with the mainland eligible for two places, with the pair finishing 30th and 50th respectively.
But if the rankings had been taken now, Wu would be joined by new world number 180 Dou after the 19-year-old claimed a highly respectable joint 40th place at last week’s star-studded WGC-HSBC Champions event in Shanghai.
“The ranking points last for two years and the Olympics will be 2020, so as the main thing for world rankings is to get into the Olympics, I won’t think about it until 2018,” said Dou ahead of this week’s PGA Tour China Series Clearwater Bay Open in Hong Kong.
“I think it is great that golf is in the Olympics. It is great for developing golf in China because there will be more kids who will play and it will be more popular.
“The country takes the Olympics seriously and it will mean people know more about golf and it is definitely good for us right now.”
Dou is a four-time winner on the China Series this year and comfortably tops the order of merit, but while last week’s finish was a larger number than he is used to seeing on the leaderboard of late, he was in a group tied for 40th place that included two-time major winner Martin Kaymer and ahead of the likes of Louis Oosthuizen, compatriot Liang Wenchong and American duo Bubba Watson and Patrick Reed.
“With a 77 in the first round, the last three days were really good,” added Dou, who closed with a three-under-par 69 on Sunday over the testing Sheshan International Golf Club layout to finish at level par overall.
“It does not matter too much with the position or the ranking for me, I just felt like I could play pretty good on a PGA Tour course and that gave me confidence. It was a great week.
“The field was strong so you go there and you do not feel you are there to win, you are just there to learn.
“But coming into this week I have just got to change that approach and extend my lead in the order of merit and just try to play my best and keep on winning.”
Dou heads into the final four events of the China Series over Ұ500,000 (HK$572,000) ahead of his nearest challenger having become the first player in the tour’s brief three-year history to break the Ұ1 million barrier, with the money list winner earning a full card on the PGA Tour’s second-tier circuit next year.
“I obviously stand a better chance than other players to get the card, but there are four more events. I need to play well in two more and I am pretty sure I can get my card,” he said.
“I wouldn’t say I am 100 per cent sure right now, but it makes me more relaxed than the other guys who are trying to catch me.”