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Xiao wows en route to first pro triumph

China Daily | Updated: 2017-12-05 11:08

Asian Tour debut capped by dramatic playoff performance

China's Xiao Bowen made a sensational Asian Tour debut by lifting his first professional title in nail-biting fashion in Xiamen, Fujian province, on Sunday.

The 27-year-old prevailed on the second hole of a playoff against Australian Bryden Macpherson at the $350,000 Asian Golf Championship at Kaikou Golf Club's West course.

Xiao, who turned pro in 2012, held a three-shot lead after 14 holes of the final round but three bogeys on his final four holes saw him sign for a 2-over 74, tying him at 3-under 285 with Macpherson, who closed with a 69.

Xiao missed a five-foot birdie attempt on the first extra hole, the 440-yard par-4 18th, but sealed victory by draining a four-foot birdie on the second tiebreaker as Macpherson bowed out with a par.

The win earned Xiao $63,000 and a one-year Asian Tour exemption, while he became the third Chinese player, after Zhang Lianwei and Liang Wenchong, to win on the region's premier Tour.

"I am really honored to be the third player from China to win on the Asian Tour," said Xiao.

"But I don't dare compare myself with former Asian Tour winners Liang Wenchong and Zhang Lianwei because I have not achieved as much as they did for golf in China."

Macpherson, 27, was gracious in defeat.

"Xiao played really well on the two playoff holes. I don't mind losing to good golf, and he played some really good golf.

"During the playoff, nothing was on my mind. I just wanted to play golf. I didn't hit my approach shots as well as I'd like to, but it happens. It is part of the game."

Xiao is a self-taught golfer whose idol is Tiger Woods - so much so that he rose early last week to catch Woods' impressive comeback at the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas.

"It's great to see Tiger making a comeback. I have been waking up early to watch him play. I have always liked the way he plays. I guess I was more or less inspired by him this week," said Xiao.

What the future holds for Xiao, he's not exactly sure - but he's certainly excited.

"It is my first professional win and it means the world to me," he said.

"I enjoyed playing in my first Asian Tour event and I am very much looking forward to playing on the Tour again.

"I will also ask my friends on the Tour for some advice as well."

Despite his shaky finish in regulation, Xiao was pleased with how his nerves held up in the playoff.

"Before winning today, I have imagined countless times what my first victory would be like," he said.

"It was never the way it turned out. It wasn't easy but I am glad I managed to get the job done this week.

"When I started making bogeys on 15 and 16, I got nervous because I only had a oneshot lead. The four-footer on the 18th was the highlight for me today as it ensured my place in the playoff.

"When I knew I got into the playoff, I felt really relieved. I thought it doesn't matter if I lose or win because I am already very happy with how I played.

"I was quite composed heading into the playoff, so I guess that helped."

Another rising Chinese star, Liu Yanwei, recorded his best result on the Asian Tour after closing with a 71 to finish a shot behind the leaders in third place.

The 20-year-old's second top-10 finish on the Tour this season moves him up to 64th place on the money list, edging him closer to breaking into top 60 to secure his 2018 Asian Tour card with two events remaining on this year's calendar.

"I would have loved to do better, but overall, it has been a very good week for me," said Liu.

 

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