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Tour-iffic show by Zhang

By YANG XINWEI | China Daily | Updated: 2019-04-30 09:23
Zhang Xinjun hits his tee shot on the tenth hole during the second round of the RBC Canadian Open golf tournament at Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ontario, Canada, July 27, 2018. [Photo/IC]

Texas triumph has Chinese journeyman poised for return to PGA's biggest stage

China's Zhang Xinjun is set to return to the PGA Tour after winning the Dormie Network Classic at Briggs Ranch in San Antonio, Texas, on Sunday.

The five-stroke victory earned the 31-year-old $99,000 and, more importantly, 500 Tour points to fire him to the top of the regular-season rankings, aka 'The 25'.

With an estimated total of 830 points needed to secure a PGA Tour card, Zhang is poised for a return to the world's most prestigious circuit with 1,135 points through the first nine events.

"It takes a lot of pressure off for the rest of the season," said the player from Shaanxi province.

"I'll probably play a little more aggressively, but it'll be situational. I need to continue with our strategy and hopefully we'll be able to put another victory away."

Zhang played on the PGA Tour during the 2017-18 season but failed to retain his card after finishing 167th in the FedExCup.

He feels better equipped to handle the pitfalls this time around.

"I need to keep working on the same things I've been working on, which is a positive attitude on the course," Zhang said.

"There were times on the PGA Tour I let my emotions get the best of me. I need to continue to grow emotionally and hopefully it'll be a new me playing out there."

He entered Sunday with a commanding lead and showed plenty of maturity and resilience to never lose control of the round, finishing five shots ahead of Chase Seiffert and Lanto Griffin, who tied for second.

Zhang started his round with a bogey, but birdies at the fourth, fifth and eighth holes saw him streak away from the pack.

Another bogey on No 9 followed but he picked up a stroke on the 13th before closing out with five consecutive pars for a 26-under total.

"Today the game plan was to be very steady and consistent out there," Zhang said.

"We knew the course would play much harder today with the greens being much firmer. We knew that if we could go out there and shoot a few under, we'd probably take this one."

Zhang was in the zone all week, leading the field in greens in regulation. His 26-under total of 262 tied Mark Hubbard's score at the LECOM Suncoast Classic as the lowest on this year's Tour.

Griffin, the previous week's winner on the tour, made a charge on the back nine to close the gap on Sunday afternoon.

Griffin drained birdie putts on Nos 11, 13 and 14 to pull within three strokes of the lead, but a bogey on 15 proved to be too much to overcome.

On his 72nd hole, Griffin lipped out a par putt that would have given him a solo-second finish and enough points to surpass the 830 total that would likely ensure a PGA Tour card.

He now has 807 points for the season.

Joining Griffin in second was Seiffert, who fired a final-round 66 to earn his best finish of his Tour career. Seiffert played consistently all week, making pars or better on every hole except for one double-bogey in his second round.

Zack Sucher, Robby Shelton and Steven Alker all finished tied for fourth at 20-under 268.

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