Guangzhou, China: Rutgers University senior Jiang Zhijie survived a final-round struggle to secure a wire-to-wire victory at the PGA Tour Series-China Mainland China Qualifying Tournament.
After an opening 66, Jiang carded rounds of 71-69 over his next 36 holes to hold a commanding five-shot advantage with one round to play at Foison Golf Club. However, a closing two-over-par 73 left the door ajar for Wang Yichen.
Thanks to a spell of five consecutive birdies on the back nine (holes 13-17), Wang signed off with a 64. Even with those late heroics, he fell one shot shy of Jiang.
The top-15 finishers earned full status for the 2020 season, while those in the 16th-through-45th positions picked up conditional membership status.
Amateur Tang Junyi shot a 68 to take third, at two-under, four ahead of Li Yaqiao (75), Aaron Du (73) and Pu Xi (74). Sixteen-year-old Pu was the youngest player in the field.
Guan Tianlang, who made headlines when he made the cut at the 2013 Masters and Zurich Classic of New Orleans at age 14, tied for 10th after rounds of 72-71-72-79.
“I had a ruling on 13 and still made an up-and-down (for bogey). Then I hit it out of bounds on the next hole. I almost made a good bogey, but I made a double,” said Jiang. “Even thought that happened, I still made a lot of good strokes out there and a lot of putts dropped, so it was a good week.”
Despite having full status, Jiang, a 2019 Ping Northeast All-Region selection player at Rutgers, is excited to return to New Jersey for his final semester as he hopes to help his team reach new heights. He will turn pro following the conclusion of the college season.
“My game is good, and it’s a nice little confidence boost going back to college,” said Jiang. “We were pretty close to being a regional (qualifying) team, and hopefully we can finish strong in the spring and we’ll get to play in regionals and nationals in the post-season. We’ve never made it there and I would like to be a part of it.”
Guan, who holds the PGA Tour record for youngest player to make a cut, is contemplating his future and will have important decisions to make soon. The University of Arizona sophomore admits he is leaning toward turning pro and has already examined the PGA Tour Series-China’s schedule.
“It feels pretty good to get full status. I didn’t really play my best today but I got the job done,” said Guan. “I think I will turn pro soon. There’s a good chance I might play the event in Sanya (the season-opener), but I still need some time to think about everything. I might also balance schoolwork and play professional events.”
The first Global Q-School will take place at Mission Hills Resort Haikou (February 25-28), an event open to all players except those from mainland China. The second and final Global Q-School will take place at Laguna Golf Phuket in Thailand (March 3-6). The Series’ schedule for 2020 consists of 14 events, including the Phuket Championship (May 11-17) which will be the Tour’s first regular season event outside greater China.