Marchesani, Lee take 36-hole lead at Clearwater Bay Open

HONG KONG—Australian James Marchesani and South Korea’s Seungyun Lee are both at 3-under and happy to be there after windy, difficult conditions Friday at the Clearwater Bay Open. Marchesani, making his PGA TOUR-China debut, fired a 2-under-par 68 to take a share of the lead with Lee, who managed a second-round 67.

England’s Callum Tarren—who shot a 62 in last year’s Clearwater Bay Open—shot a best-of-the-day 65 to join the 19-year-old amateur Cheng Jin and Canada’s Richard Jung at 2-under and a shot back at The Clearwater Bay Golf & Country Club. 

Taewoo Kim, who finished fourth on the 2016 PGA TOUR-China Order of Merit and played on this year’s Web.com Tour, shot a 68 Friday to move to 1-under. The 24-year-old Korean shares sixth place with Australians David Lutterus (75)—the first-round leader—and Jake Stirling (69), and American Jesse Speirs (68) after a day in which flag positions were among the biggest tests.

Marchesani, 27, is playing this week following a strong season on the PGA Tour of Australasia, where he is currently seventh on the Order of Merit.

A former U.S. college player at Oklahoma City University, Marchesani tied for third in February’s Victorian PGA Championship, was a runner-up in August’s Fiji International and arrived in Hong Kong after ties for fifth at the Western Australia Open and seventh at the Queensland Open.

“I’ve come up here after two pretty solid weeks, and that form has sort of carried over, so it’s been nice,” said Marchesani, who was even-par after a difficult front nine where he had three birdies, one bogey and a double bogey.

“I got off to a pretty solid start in the first six or seven holes when the wind was pretty tough and gusting, and then managed to make a couple of birdies on the back nine. I’m obviously in a good spot with a couple of rounds to go.” 

Marchesani is a newcomer to this course but said he had heard plenty about the event and the TOUR from compatriots.

“I’d heard only good things about Clearwater Bay. Everyone said it’s sensational. I also had a couple of friends play the Asia-Pacific Amateur here (in 2015) and heard nothing but good things, and it’s shown that this week,” said Marchesani before referring to a conversation with defending champion Daniel Nisbet.

“Daniel asked me what I thought about the course, and I said, ‘What’s not to like?’ It’s been presented unbelievably. The greens are perfect. There’s really nothing out of place. As long as you hit the fairways, you’re good to go.”

In contrast to Marchesani, Lee blossomed on the front nine, recording four birdies, including three in a row starting at No. 7. The 32-year-old is looking for his first PGA TOUR-China title after racking up four top-six finishes in 2015 and 2016.

“I’m just trying to play my own game, and it was only when I looked up on 18 that I saw my name on the top of the leaderboard,” said the Daejeon-based Lee, who has won two Challenge Tour events in Korea.

“I really like the course, and I really enjoy playing in the leading group. I just want to be comfortable and play well,” he said.

Jin, a sophomore at the University of Southern California, will have plenty of attention at the weekend in his first event at Clearwater Bay since winning the 2015 Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship at the seaside course. Jin remains the only amateur to win a PGA TOUR-China title, capturing his in 2014, at age 16.

“I’m hanging in there. I played all right, but I didn’t score very well unfortunately,” said Jin, who finished fifth in last week’s Asia-Pacific Amateur, two years after winning the title at Clearwater Bay to earn a place in the 2016 Masters.

“I just need to make more putts, but I made a lot yesterday so it’s kind of fair that I didn’t make any today. I’m just trying to hang in there and see what happens.”

Jin teed off on No. 10 and felt he didn’t make the most of the more benign conditions on his second nine.

“It was windier early in the morning, but I played decent in the wind and did all right until the wind actually stopped. On my second nine, I shot 3-over and had a lost ball on eight, which was kind of disappointing as there was literally no wind.”

Jin played for two days with Jason Hak (72) and 17-year-old Yuxin Lin (80), the newly crowned Asia-Pacific Amateur champion.

Lin’s opening rounds of 68-80 were reminiscent of his opening rounds at last year’s Clearwater Bay Open, when he shot 78-65 on the first two days on his way to finishing as the top amateur.

Daniel Hillier survives scare as two former champions on target to meet at NZ men’s amateur champs



A final match between two former New Zealand men’s amateur champions remains on track at Christchurch’s Russley Golf Club this weekend.

New Zealand’s No 2-ranked golfer Daniel Hillier scraped through his last-16 match on the 19th hole against Canterbury’s Dominic Brettkelly who put in a mammoth Friday effort before a home crowd.

Brettkelly earlier went to the 23rd hole to beat another Canterbury player Scott Manyweathers in the round of 32 and looked to be in control against Hillier, one-up heading down the 18th at Russley.

Hillier, New Zealand’s top finisher at the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship on Sunday, finished strongly to end Brettkelly’s run, and will face another AAC competitor Mark Hutson in the quarterfinals on Saturday. Hutson beat Ryan Chisnall, the country’s third-ranked player, one-up in a heavyweight clash in the round of 16.

READ MORE:
* Record low round for Hellier
* Course record equalled

The youngest NZ amateur winner at age 17 in 2015, Hillier could still face defending champion Louis Dobbelaar of Australia who lurks on the other side of the draw after beating national under-19 champion Mako Thompson of Hawke’s Bay, 3 and 2.

Top qualifier Scott Hellier, the Southlander who shot a course record 60 on Thursday, bowed out in the first round to Canterbury youngster Tom Parker who was 32nd and final qualifier. Parker beat Hellier on the 19th, then beat James Hydes 4 and 3 to set up a quarterfinal against another local Oscar Cadenhead.

“It’s been pretty crazy, obviously I know my way round here pretty well as I have played here all my life, but that’s match-play for you. It’s just all about what happens on the day,” said Parker.

In the women’s competition both top seeds bowed out to leave the race wide open.

Big local hope Juliana Hung, who dominated 36-hole qualifying five shots clear of the rest, was upset by Rose Zheng 2 and 1 in the round of 16.

Zheng will meet Olive Tapu in the quarterfinals.

New Zealand international Chantelle Cassidy, second in qualifying, also fell in the last-16, beaten by Australian Jade Shellback on the 19th.

Silvia Brunotti made an outstanding comeback as the 14-year-old won her last four holes to advance to the weekend, beating Fuuka Higashi one-up.

Amelia Garvey and Caryn Khoo look two of the toughest to beat after comfortable victories to move into the final eight where they’re seeded to meet in Sunday’s final.

AT A GLANCE

Men, last-16: Tom Parker bt James Hyde 4/3; Oscar Cadenhead bt Karan Nalam 1up; Hayato Miya bt Jose De Sousa 7/6; Louis Dobbelaar bt Mako Thompson 3/2; Daniel Hillier bt Dominic Brettkelly 1up; Mark Hutson bt Ryan Chisnall 1up; Jang Hyun Lee bt Jake Lee 4/3; Tommy Liu bt Tyler Wood 3/1.

Women, last-16: Rose Zheng bt Juliana Hung 2/1; Olive Tapu bt Darae Chung 4/3; Amelia Garvey bt Tara Raj 5/4; Fiona Xu bt Hillary O’Connor 2up; Jade Shellback bt Chantelle Cassidy 19th; Caryn Khoo bt Vivian Lu 4/2; Silvia Brunotti bt Fuuka Higashi 1up; Yoonjeong Huh bt Miree Jung 1up.

 

Stuff

Homework first, then Masters for China’s schoolboy golf sensation

HONG KONG: China’s latest schoolboy golf sensation Lin Yuxin says it’s “an honour” to play in the US Masters next year, but first he’s got homework to do.

Left-hander Lin stormed to the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship (AAC) in New Zealand on Sunday with a birdie-eagle finish, securing a place at Augusta and at Carnoustie for next year’s British Open.

“I think it’s going to be a really great experience,” said Lin Thursday, after shooting a fine two-under par 68 at the Clearwater Bay Open in Hong Kong.

“It’s an honour and I think it’s a dream for every player to play in the Masters.”

But the disciplined Lin couldn’t hang around too long to chat after securing a share of sixth place in the first round at the PGA Tour China Series event with another 18th hole eagle. There were more pressing matters.

“I do a lot of my school work online during tournament weeks,” explained home-schooled Lin, who only turned 17 three weeks ago. “There’s just tons of academics to do.”

Beijing-based Lin is in the middle of a five-week run of back-to-back tournaments that includes events on the European Challenge Tour, Asian Tour and PGA Tour China.

And later this month he will play with the likes of Jordan Spieth, Adam Scott and Jason Day at the Australian Open.

It’s a workload many seasoned pros would balk at, even without the added pressure of studying. But not this young man.

“Actually I had an online lesson last night at 7pm,” he said. “I finished here at 6pm, the shuttle bus back to the hotel was at 6.30pm so I didn’t even have time for dinner.”

MUM’S THE WORD

Lin was bitten by the golf bug when first taken to a driving range at the age of six by his dad in Beijing. But it is his mum who travels with him everywhere now and keeps the big-hitting teenager on the straight and narrow.

“She makes me do homework, yeah,” said Lin, with a smile. “I mean that’s her job, right?”

China’s world number 66 Li Haotong predicted in Shanghai last week at the WGC-HSBC Champions: “In the next five years we will see a lot of young Chinese players on tour.”

Right on cue, Lin became the third Chinese in five years to lift the AAC, following fellow teens Guan Tianlang in 2013 and Jin Cheng two years ago.

Jin was fifth at Royal Wellington on Sunday as Chinese players filled four of the top five places. Andy Zhang, who played the 2012 US Open when he was just 14, was second, with Yuan Yechun third.

Jin and Lin were playing partners again on Thursday, forming a formidable amateur double act high on the scoreboard as Jin shot a five-under 65 to lie one stroke behind leader David Lutterus of Australia.

AUGUSTA ADVICE

The 19-year-old Jin, who played at Augusta in 2016, had plenty of advice for Lin about how to handle his Masters experience.

“He gave me tons of tips,” said Lin. “He told me just relax and enjoy the process.

“He told me it has a really tough opening tee shot and wants me to be careful,” he said, before adding fearlessly: “But I’m still going to hit driver, obviously.”

Lin struggled to pick who he’d prefer to be drawn with at the famous Augusta National.

“I don’t really have a favourite,” he said. “But if I have to choose I’d say Rory McIlroy. He has such a great swing, hits it really straight and far. He’s my inspiration.”

Lin had already caught the eye over the past three years as the leading amateur on the PGA Tour China Series, even before his exploits last weekend.

From 2014-2016, Lin made 11 cuts in 13 PGA Tour China starts and he finished as the lowest scoring amateur in all seven tournaments he entered in 2016, never missing a cut.

Not only that, he is often, as at Clearwater Bay, challenging high up the leaderboard on level terms with his professional opponents.

“The reason we all take notice is because he’s an amateur,” Greg Gilligan, US PGA Tour China executive vice-president, told AFP.

“That result at the Asian Amateur was just remarkable,” said Gilligan.

“And while we are an international tour and we want all our players to do great, the developmental aspect of what we are doing in trying to popularise the game more here (in China) is significantly helped when these young Chinese men do well.”

Lutterus leads at Clearwater Bay Open

HONG KONG—PGA TOUR-China veteran David Lutterus of Australia eagled the par-5 18th Thursday to post a 6-under-par 64 and hold a one-stroke lead after the first round of the PGA TOUR-China’s Clearwater Bay Open at The Clearwater Bay Golf & Country Club. This tournament is the only sanctioned PGA TOUR-China event of the 2017 season but is a precursor to a full schedule PGA TOUR-China will play in 2018.

Chinese amateur Cheng Jin, who won the 2015 Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship held here at Clearwater Bay, also eagled 18 to lie one behind Lutterus and join New Zealander Campbell Rawson at 5-under, two ahead of Thailand’s Gunn Charoenkul and Josh Munn of New Zealand.

Yuxin Lin, 17, won the Asia-Pacific Amateur in Wellington, New Zealand, last Sunday to earn invitations to the 2018 Masters Tournament and THE OPEN Championship. Lin followed that career highlight with a 68 to take a share of sixth place with four others.

The 6-foot 5-inch Lutterus—who had seven birdies and three bogeys—played all but four events on the first three years of PGA TOUR-China and said he was happy to be back at this city on the southern tip of China, having tied for fifth at the 2016 Clearwater Bay Open.

“I’ve played well at this place, and I love this course. The eagle was a little unexpected. I can’t remember my last eagle, so it was a great way to finish. It can be a very tough tee shot on 18, but the wind died down a little bit so I got lucky,” said the Adelaide-born Lutterus, who played on the PGA TOUR in 2008 and 2010 and has lived in the U.S. for seven of the last 10 years.

“It was a good day. My driving was good, and my short game was good, but my irons were terrible, actually. But if you drive it well and putt well, you’re usually going to score well,” Lutterus explained.

Jin played two groups behind Lutterus, and he drew close to the leader when he also eagled the par-5 18th. The 19-year-old—who remains the only amateur to win on PGA TOUR-China—finished fifth in last week’s Asia-Pacific Amateur, two years after winning the title at Clearwater Bay to earn a place in the 2016 Masters.

“Five-under, I’ll take it. I just like this place. I putted really well,” said Jin, who is a sophomore at the University of Southern California. Jin was even par after an up-and-down first nine. He then birdied No. 11 and had a hat-trick of birdies from 13 before a bogey-eagle finish.

“I think 13 was my turning point. I hit it left and thought I might have lost it. It barely stayed in, and it was a really bad lie, but I hit a good shot to 10 feet, made the putt and went birdie-birdie after that.

“Hole 17 was a little disappointing, but 18 was good. I didn’t start that hot, but the back nine was good. I’m happy,” he added.

Jin was also full of praise for Lin, his young compatriot, who wasn’t didn’t have his best day on the greens but showed his power off the tee.

“Yuxin’s playing great,” Jin said. “He didn’t make any putts, and he still shot 2-under. Last time I played with him, I was outdriving him, and now he’s hitting it past me. It’s amazing how he improved. I’m happy for him.”

Jin couldn’t remember when the pair last played a competitive round together, but Lin had no problem with his memory.

“Two years in the Nomura Cup,” Lin said. “It’s a different game now. He hits it far—not as far as me, but he hits it far, for sure. Cheng putted pretty well today, so I need to ask him how he made all the putts.

“This course definitely fits me,” he added, “and I had tons of birdie chances. I’m hitting it really well, same as last week. My short game is actually pretty good as well. It’s just the putting.”

Lin, who is home-schooled in Beijing, will play in the Masters in five months’ time following his life-changing victory last week but is currently focused on bettering his tie for 59th in last year’s Clearwater Bay Open when he finished as the top amateur.

“It’s really exciting at the moment. It’s such an honor to make it to the Masters. Not a lot of golfers get to play the Masters, even some guys on Tour, so I’m just really proud of myself, and I really want to enjoy the process.”