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Champions set to square off for Guangzhou glory

By SHI FUTIAN | China Daily | Updated: 2019-07-18 09:03
PGA Tour Series-China money leader David Kocher of the US(second left) tracks a shot off the practice tee ahead of this week's Guangzhou Open at Nansha Golf Club. CHINA DAILY

David Kocher narrowly leads fellow American Trevor Sluman in the 2019 PGA Tour Series-China order of merit as the tour swings into the Greater Bay area for this week's Guangzhou Open.

All eight of this year's winners will tee it up at Nansha Golf Club on Thursday for the ninth tournament on the 14-event schedule.

Japan's Taihei Sato pocketed 288,000 yuan ($42,000) in the season-opening Chongqing Championship after beating China's Liu Yanwei in a playoff. Sato currently sits eighth on the order of merit despite playing in just three events and has yet to finish outside the top 15.

Sluman claimed the Sanya Championship, the second event of the season, and currently trails Kocher by just under 50,000 yuan ($7,200) after recording three other top-10s.

Kocher overtook Sluman to top the money list after his runner-up finish at last month's Huangshan Championship moved him to 628,520 yuan ($91,300). The rookie pro is returning to Guangzhou, where he earned conditional status for the season at the second global qualifying tournament.

After earning a Monday ticket into the season-opening Chongqing Championship, Kocher had an impressive three-week stretch, backing a third-place finish in Chongqing with a tie for 18th in Sanya before netting 288,000 yuan with his win at the Haikou Championship.

Canada's Richard Jung also earned 288,000 yuan for his triumph at the Beijing Championship after playing in just two events. He sits 10th in the order of merit while splitting his schedule with events on the Japan Tour.

One week after Jung's victory, South Korea's Luke Kwon claimed the Qinhuangdao Championship and the following week American Kevin Techakanokboon defeated England's Stephen Lewton in a rain-soaked playoff to claim the Nantong Championship.

Kwon is fourth on the money list while Techakanokboon sits fifth. They'll be looking to retain their spots as the top five finishers at the end of the season will earn cards for next year's Korn Ferry Tour (formerly Tour).

Cyril Bouniolis of France, who became the first European to win on the tour with his one-stroke victory over Sluman at the Suzhou Open last month, is also competing in Guangzhou. The former European Tour player is currently seventh on the order of merit.

Leading the charge for China will be Bai Zhengkai, who won last month's Huangshan Championship. The 21-year-old will be playing his fourth series event of the season.

Meanwhile, American Max McGreevy is still on the hunt for a breakthrough victory in China.

The former NCAA champion with the University of Oklahoma has been the most consistent player on this season's tour, recording six top-10s. He's third on the money list with 576,232 yuan ($83,800) and in the hunt to return to the Korn Ferry Tour, where he played a full season in 2018.

Other former winners in this week's field include China's Jin Cheng, Zhang Huilin and Chao Haimeng; Canadians Peter Campbell, Justin Shin and Eugene Wong; Americans Jeffrey Kang and Sam Chien; Australians James Marchesani and Bryden MacPherson; and South Korea's Kim Tae-woo.

The PGA Tour established the PGA Tour Series-China in 2014 as its third international developmental tour, following in the footsteps of PGA Tour Latinoamerica and the Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada.

Since its inception, PGA Tour Series-China players have received official World Golf Ranking points for top finishes at sanctioned tournaments.

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