China pair Wu Ashun and Li Haotong eye ‘big future’ after World Cup of Golf runner-up finish

Denmark’s Thorbjorn Olesen and Soren Kjeldsen win by four shots at Kingston Heath in Melbourne, with France and the United States also sharing second place

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 27 November, 2016, 5:16pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 27 November, 2016, 11:14pm

China pair Wu Ashun and Li Haotong were left to rue missing out on US$500,000 in prize money at the World Cup of Golf, but feel their tie for second place behind Denmark’s Thorbjorn Olesen and Soren Kjeldsen leaves the mainland with a “big future” in the game.

The duo fought superbly during the final day’s four-ball session and combined effectively to card a seven-under-par 65, although it was not enough to deny the Danes who claimed their first World Cup of Golf crown with a four-shot victory over China, France and the United States.

Wu and Li finished at 16-under-par at Kingston Heath, but missed birdie chances on the 17th and 18th holes of their final round of the US$8 million event, which contained two rounds of foursomes and two of four-balls over the four days in Melbourne.

“We feel average as we didn’t really play our best,” said 21-year-old Li, who was born in 1995 - the year China hosted their first World Cup of Golf.

“We still have a lot of chances to win this trophy, so I’m looking forward to it. This will certainly help the game in China. We have a big future.”

The finish was still China’s best outing in the World Cup of Golf as Li and Wu improved on Zhang Lianwei and Liang Wenchong’s tie for 11th place in the 2008 edition and meant the pair shared US$880,333 in prize money, having also represented the mainland at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Li Haotong aiming for world’s top 50 after breakthrough season

And having also claimed a tie for second place at the European Tour’s Turkish Airlines Open at the start of November to move up to 130th in the world rankings, Li has earned US$1.13 million in just four events this month alone.

“Over the last few holes we missed some putts which could have cost us some US$500,000,” he added. “I think it’s a decent finish and hopefully next time we will play great again.”

Holding a four-shot overnight lead, Olesen and Kjeldsen saw their advantage reduced to one with a subdued outward 35 only to storm home in 31 to deliver an historic win for their nation.

“We almost got the trophy,” said Wu. “We played very well this week, also today. Playing with my partner Li was very exciting. After four holes and making two birdies, I thought we had a chance to touch the trophy as we were only two behind.

Historic Austrian Open win for Chinese golfer Wu Ashun

“My partner is a great player. We’ll keep in touch, keep practising hard and I know we can do better next time. Chinese players can win the tournament.”

Olesen and Kjeldsen, who finished third in the last World Cup of Golf in 2013 with Thomas Bjorn, walked away with US$2.56 million in prize money.

Watch: Highlights of Denmark’s final round

“It’s been absolutely an incredible week,” said Kjeldsen, who was featuring in his sixth World Cup of Golf. “The camaraderie between us was great all week.

“When you’re on the back nine on Sunday, you feel like you would die for your partner. I’ve never experienced that before.”

Wu Ashun is first Chinese to win European Tour event at home at China Open

American’s Rickie Fowler and Jimmy Walker fired a closing six-under 66 to share second place, while Frenchman Victor Dubuisson and Romain Langasque carded a fine nine-under 63 to also finish alongside China.

“We wanted to get out to a quick start and play aggressively,” said three-time PGA Tour winner Fowler, with he and 2016 PGA Championship winner Walker making their World Cup of Golf debuts.

“We hit the shots, just didn’t get anything to go in early. So yeah, felt like tee to green we didn’t really miss many shots.

“It’s always nice if you hit it a little bit closer, but really just didn’t get the putts to go in early enough.”