HSBC Champions Preview
(Row 1-Yi Cao (Left), Wenchong Liang; Row 2-Haotong Li (Left), Zecheng Dou; Row 3- Ashun Wu (Left), Xinjun Zhang)
SHANGHAI, China—In 2011, Xinjun Zhang started slowly at the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions at Sheshan International Golf Club. He fired a 2-over 74 in the opening round and was tied for 54th in the 78-player field. In 2014, at the same tournament, Hao Tong Li had a strong finish, firing a closing 67—the second-lowest round of the day. And by the end of both tournaments, the two Chinese players had earned headlines for their play.
Zhang went on to tie for 13th at the 2011 event, thanks to a 68-64-72 (12-under) finish that sent a message that his game was ready for the big stage and bright lights of a World Golf Championships’ event.
In 2014, Li had just finished a stellar season on the Ping An Bank China Tour – PGA TOUR China Series, finishing No. 1 on the Order of Merit. His final-round, 5-under 67 was bettered only by Henrik Stenson’s 65, and the outstanding final round allowed Li to move from a tie for 62nd through 54 holes into a tie for 35th with, among others, Jordan Spieth.
Both Zhang and Li will return to Sheshan International for this year’s HSBC Champions next week as two of the six Chinese players invited to play in the final WGC event of the year. Depending on perspective, it could also be considered the first WGC of the PGA TOUR’s 2015-16 season that began two weeks ago in California.
Li, a Web.com Tour player who just finished his first season on that circuit and maintained his membership for 2016, joins Zhang, currently No. 3 on the PGA TOUR China’s Order of Merit, and PGA TOUR China’s Yi Cao (No. 11 on the Order of Merit) and Zecheng Dou (No. 17) in the field. Also playing in the 72-hole, stroke-play tournament and the only World Golf Championships’ event held outside the United States, are European Tour veterans Ashun Wu, winner of the Volvo China Open earlier this season, and Wenchong Liang. The HSBC Champions is Nov. 5-8.
This will be Li’s third appearance in the tournament. He also tied for 39th in 2013—again with a final-round 67 to his credit. Following his top-15 appearance in 2011, Zhang returned to the HSBC Champions in 2012 and tied for 56th in his only other start.
Dou made his PGA TOUR debut in 2014 when he tied for 69th at the HSBC Champions, while Liang has made 14 cuts in 24 PGA TOUR appearances. This will be his seventh consecutive appearance in this tournament since it became a WGC event in 2009. His top finish is a tie for 15th in 2014.
Cao and Wu have never played in a PGA TOUR tournament.
(Wirtten by Laury Livsey)