Five to watch at the PGA Tour China Series Clearwater Bay Open this week in Hong Kong
The circuit makes its first stop outside of the mainland at Clearwater Bay Golf & Country Club and we look at the leading contenders for the inaugural HK$1.4 million tournament from November 3-6
Jason Hak Shun-yat
PGA Tour China Series Order of Merit: 14th (RMB207,029)
World Ranking: 921
Best result this season: tied 2nd – NewTown KingRun Open
Not just because he is Hong Kong’s number one, Jason Hak Shun-yat deserves his place on this list as one of the form players on the PGA Tour China Series circuit.
The 22-year-old has posted three top 10 finishes in as many events, which included his best-ever finish as a professional at the NewTown KingRun Open last month as Hak claimed a tie for second place and a cheque for RMB89,600 (HK$103,789).
He has led for a total of six rounds on the PGA Tour China Series this year, including after the third round of the Pingan Bank Open in Beijing last month which was the last event on the circuit before the Clearwater Bay Open.
That earned Hak, who does not have playing right on the tour, a direct entry for this week and he will hope to take full advantage and finally not just be known as the then youngest player ever to make the cut on the European Tour at the UBS Hong Kong Open at Fanling in 2008.
He lost that honour to China’s Guan Tianlang at the 2013 Masters, but will now look to make his name in the professional ranks having broken into the world’s top 1000 for the first time this year.
PGA Tour China Series Order of Merit: 2nd (RMB549,495)
World Ranking: 452
Best result this season: winner – Pingan Bank Open
American Charlie Saxon won the last event on the PGA Tour China Series prior to this week’s Clearwater Bay Open after claiming victory at the Pingan Bank Open in Beijing last month.
That lifted the 23-year-old up to second on the order of merit following four earlier top 10 finishes having earned his place on the tour after sharing first place at the second global qualifying tournament in mid-January in Kunming.
He maintained that form by opening the season with back-to-back tied for sixth place finishes at the St Andrews Henan Open and United Investment Real Estate Wuhan Open in May.
A third place finish arrived at the Ping An Private Bank Wanda Open in the middle of the year, which was swiftly followed by finishing second at the Yulongwan Yunnan Open at the start of September.
And that teed up Saxon’s win later that month as he carded a flawless six-under-par final round to win the Pingan Bank Open by one shot to move into the top 500 in the world rankings for the first time.
In 2015 Saxon played four events on the Adams Pro Tour, which has helped the likes of two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson progress to the PGA Tour.
PGA Tour China Series Order of Merit: 1st (RMB1.07 million)
World Ranking: 180
Best result this season: winner – St Andrews Henan Open, United Investment Real Estate Wuhan Open, Suning Estate Nanjing Zhongshan Open, Yulongwan Yunnan Open
China’s Dou Zecheng is the current PGA Tour China Series order of merit leader having won four events this year and the 19-year-old is on course to earn the full card on the PGA Tour’s second-tier circuit, the Web.com Tour, next season which is on offer for the money list winner.
Dou won four of the first seven events on this year’s calender and comfortably tops the money list after becoming the first player to win RMB1 million (HK$1.16m) in a single season on the circuit.
Those results have lifted the teenager into the top 200 in the world rankings and Dou is currently China’s number two just behind Wu Ashun, who featured at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Remarkably the first of those wins came as Dou beat compatriot Zhang Xinjun in a play-off at the season-opening St Andrews Henan Open having thrown away a two shot 54 hole lead following a final round of six-over-par.
He followed that up with a slightly more regulation five shot win at the United Investment Real Estate Wuhan Open two weeks later.
Dou added a third win of the season at the Suning Estate Nanjing Zhongshan Open in June before a fourth arrived at last month’s Yulongwan Yunnan Open.
PGA Tour China Series Order of Merit: N/A
World Ranking: 466
Best result this season: N/A
New Zealand’s Josh Geary finished second on the 2015 PGA Tour China Series order of merit after winning three times last year to earn status on the Web.com Tour.
The Clearwater Bay Open will be Geary’s first event of the season on the tour having played the majority of his golf in 2016 on the PGA Tour’s second-tier circuit.
The 31-year-old has played 16 events on the Web.com Tour this year and claimed a tied for sixth place finish at the Servientrega Championship Presented by Efecty in April having opened the year by finishing 11th at the Brasil Champions presented by Embrase a week earlier.
He has missed his last three cuts on the tour, but claimed a tie for 12th at the PGA Tour of Australasia’s Fiji International at the start of October.
Geary earlier posted top five finishes at the Oates Vic Open and Holden NZ PGA Championship, where he finished tied for second in Auckland in March.
In 2015, Geary won the PGA Tour China Series’ Buick Open, Lanhai Open and Yulongwan Yunnan Open and also posted a further top 10 finish, but missed out on winning the order of merit having opted to skip the final two events to play on the PGA Tour of Australasia.
PGA Tour China Series Order of Merit: 5th (RMB319,575)
World Ranking: 359
Best result this season: 2nd – St Andrews Henan Open, Pingan Bank Open
China’s Zhang Xinjun is currently ranked fifth on the PGA Tour China Series order of merit after claiming runner-up finishes at the St Andrews Henan Open and most recently at the Pingan Bank Open last month.
The 29-year-old also posted a top 10 finish at the Yulongwan Yunnan Open having finished second and third on the order of merit lists in 2014 and 2015.
Zhang won once in each of the last two seasons on the PGA Tour China Series, at the Beijing Open in 2014 and the NewTown KingRun Open in 2015, but has also found himself in hot water with officials after being banned for six months for signing two incorrect scorecards during the inaugural season in 2014.
He was disqualified by the China Golf Association for signing an incorrect scorecard at the Lanhai Open in Shanghai before becoming the first Chinese player to win on the PGA Tour China Series when he captured the Beijing Open in June that year.
But Zhang again was caught signing an incorrect card two months at the Cadillac Championship in Beijing to earn the ban.
He has, though, put that behind him and finished tied for 21st at last week’s star-studded WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai to move up to a career-high in the world rankings.