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Zhang blows away field in Zhuhai

By Xu Jingxi in Zhuhai, Guangdong province | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2017-03-25 20:56

On the strength of a four-hole birdie blitz over the back nine, China's Zhang Weiwei captured the Zhuhai Hengqin Phoenix Tree Building Challenge on Saturday by a three-stroke margin for her first China LPGA Tour win.

Playing under windy and wet conditions in Guangdong province, the Hainan-based pro closed with a three-under 69 over the Orient Zhuhai A and C composite course for a score of three-under 213. Chinese-Taipei's Lin Tzu-chi, the overnight co-leader, struggled to a 78 to finish runner-up at even-par, one stroke ahead of fellow islander Chen Min-jou (75) and Thai Parinda Phokan (70).

China's Du Mohan was the top amateur as the 15-year-old closed with a 72 to sit equal fifth with Thais Narisara Kerdrit (72), Aunchisa Utama (72) and Renuka Suksukont (68) at five strokes off the pace.

China's Yang Taoli, who led or shared the lead through the first two rounds, ballooned to an 81 to finish equal ninth one shot further back in a group of six players.

Prior to the RMB500,000 tournament, Zhang said she needed to be better in Zhuhai this week after coming close in previous events. Last year she finished third, three strokes behind Shi Yuting. In 2015, when the tournament was played as the Zhuhai Classic, she lost in a first-hole play-off to Chinese-Taipei's Babe Liu.

On Saturday, Zhang, who turned 20 last week, had three bogeys and two birdies on the front nine to make the turn at one-over through 45 holes. She then made birdies at holes 10, 11 and 13, before picking up another stroke at the par-three 17th.

"I feel excited now. I'm emotional, very emotional. It seems a gift sent by the golf god. I didn't think about the win, I just told myself to enjoy my game. Actually I didn't play a great front nine. But I didn't give up. I was patient to the last hole, which was key to the victory," she said.

"I would like to say this was the best 20th birthday gift. I couldn't ask for a better start. I believe I can have a better year than last year. My next step is Japan where I will play the development tour. Hopefully I can have good preparation for the Q school there at the end of the year."

Starting the day on six-under, Lin saw her chance for a third China LPGA Tour victory slip away after struggling in the wind during a round that featured two birdies, three bogeys, a double bogey and a triple bogey. She had nothing but praise for her young playing partner Zhang.

"Zhang played great and had three-under in such tough conditions. I felt not great in the driving range going into the final round, I felt different about my iron game from yesterday. More or less I feel disappointed with myself," said the 26-year-old from Taichung.

Water proved to be the undoing of Yang's round on three separate occasions. At the par-four ninth she drove into the water and made double bogey, but still held the lead over Lin who also found water on the way to a triple bogey.

Sitting one shot back of Zhang going into the 17th hole, Yang made bogey at the par-three and then disaster struck. From 65 yards out on the fairway, she twice hit approach shots into the water in front of the 18th green and walked away with an eight.

"I feel very disappointed. Nobody likes such a finish but I played great apart from the last hole and was in contention again," said the Sichuan native, the 2009 China LPGA Tour Order of Merit winner who returned to competition last year after taking three years off to get married and have a child.

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