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Honma Hong Kong Open

Chinese golf star Dou Zecheng sets sights on US – but impressing at Hong Kong Open is first target

The teenager shoots a solid 70 to kick off his round at Fanling

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 December, 2016, 1:43pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 December, 2016, 9:53pm

Rising Chinese star Dou Zecheng has taken giant strides in his career over the past 12 months but says it’s a case of reverting back to a one-step-at-a-time routine as he makes his UBS Hong Kong Open debut.

The 19-year-old from Henan carded an even-par 70 to start his campaign at the Hong Kong Golf Club and he left the course under the distinct impression that he’d left a few shots out there.

“Off the tee I wasn’t that good and I made some small mistakes for bogeys,” said Dou.

“Other than that I played pretty well with five birdies. So they gave me hope that I can go out again tomorrow and improve.”

Dou comes to Hong Kong fresh from a breakout season on the PGA Tour China Series. He was the runaway Order of Merit winner and Player of the Year thanks to four tournament wins and four other top-10 finishes – an effort that has secured Dou a card on the developmental Web.com Tour in the United States.

He’s currently tossing up between a base in Las Vegas or Houston for the season ahead.

“I didn’t really finish the season off well and I am hoping I can get some of the feel and form back before I head off to America right after this,” said Dou.

“I’m going to spend two weeks practising in Orlando before the season stars. It’s exciting, definitely. I think because I had already won the Order of Merit I lost a little bit of motivation towards the end of the season but I am hoping to get it back now.”

Dou’s efforts have also seen his world ranking skyrocket from beyond the world’s top 400 to a current mark of 198 – meaning the teenager is now his nation’s third-ranked player behind Li Haotong (ranked 135) and Wu Ashun (167).

China’s stock as a golfing nation is starting to rise and along with the impressive development of Li (also the domestic tour’s Player of the Year at 19) and Wu.

With Dou they look ready to step into the leading role played over the past two decade by the likes of Zhang Lianwei and Liang Wenchong, as the sport looks to spread itself across the mainland for a new generation of both players and fans.

Li was also the domestic’s tour’s Order of Merit winner at 19 and what’s impressing those watching on from outside the ropes is the trio’s natural feel for both game and for the requirements that come away from the fairways.

Dou’s finish on Thursday was a case in point. A bogey blemish on the last might have had the young man cursing his misfortune but he shrugged it off with a smile and said he was keeping his focus firmly set on the future.

“I think because I had already secured the Order of Merit before the season ended that I eased off a bit, lost some motivation,” said Zou.

“I’ve got it back here and just want now to do better. Now I’m off to work on my swing a bit and put in the work I need to do.”