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Dou confident of seizing second chance in PGA Tour's elite ranks

China Daily | Updated: 2022-09-16 09:37
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Marty Dou Zecheng of China tracks a tee shot during the final round of the Nationwide Children's Hospital Championship on Aug 28 in Columbus, Ohio. GETTY IMAGES

Marty Dou Zecheng is ready to show he truly belongs among golf's elite when he takes a second crack at the PGA Tour starting with this week's season-opening Fortinet Championship in Napa, California.

Dou endured a forgettable debut season in 2018, missing 17 cuts from 23 starts. But now with more competitive golf miles in his legs, a permanent US base and extra maturity, the 25-year-old believes he can finally make an impression as he and close friend Carl Yuan Yechun push each other to deliver China's first winner on the PGA Tour.

"I feel so much more confident, comfortable coming out here now," said Dou, who earned his PGA Tour card through the Korn Ferry Tour where he notched one win and five other top-10s to finish fourth in the season-long points race.

"I feel every part of my game is ready. I'm just very excited. That year (2018), it feels like not knowing what to do coming out on tour, but this year, I know I'm going to play good and find my way."

Dou is among 50 Korn Ferry Tour graduates who have benefitted from the grind and pressure-packed competition on the development circuit, which has unearthed the likes of current world No 1 and 2022 PGA Tour Player of the Year Scottie Scheffler.

The young Chinese has also developed more power in his game by hitting a driving average of 315 yards (288 meters) which ranked him in the top 25 last season. In 2017, when he first played his way onto the PGA Tour, Dou averaged 300 yards off the tee.

"I feel I'm mentally more prepared. I know what's in my game that I can achieve and what I'm looking for. I also know what I need to work on. I find myself feeling better being in the US unlike in 2018 where I had no place to stay and I was just traveling and traveling," said Dou, who has made Dallas his base in recent years.

"Everything feels more comfortable now, feels more like something you'll do with life instead of just playing golf all year long."

While he had compatriot Zhang Xinjun for company on the PGA Tour in 2018, Dou is excited his close friend Yuan will be competing alongside him for the 2022-23 season.

They have known each other since their junior days and are pushing each other on to become China's first PGA Tour champion.

"It's always good to compete together and have another Chinese buddy who's playing out here. That relationship is great. If he (Yuan) can play good, I know I can play good as well," said Dou.

"It's like the guys going to college … they play on the same team and when they turn pro and one plays good, the other guys know they will do the same. That's how they improve. I think it'll be the same for us this year."

Yuan, who will be making his PGA Tour debut after finishing second in the Korn Ferry Tour rankings, concurred. "I think it's awesome. Marty and I, we have known each other since we're 10 or 11. We've been really good friends. We talk a lot and it's great we have a friend out here to push each other," said Yuan.

"And we're really competitive. At the same time, we try to have a good time together. We love each other so much but we try to beat each other every time we tee up."

Growing the game

Dou knows if either one can pull off a victory, it would be another catalyst for further growth of the game back home. "I think it will be historic for sure especially with the population in China," he said.

"Golf isn't quite as popular as over here (in the US) and knowing there hasn't been one winner yet, I think it will happen very soon. It's something to think about but not be prepared for because it'll take a long road for Chinese golf to achieve what we really can do," added Dou, who rose through the pro ranks after finishing No 1 on the PGA Tour Series-China in 2016.

"I don't have specific goals for this season. It's about trying to play my best. I know if I can play good, I can win. We'll just need to keep practicing, keep doing our best and improving throughout the year. It's a long season and there will be chances."

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