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Zhang maintains his upwards momentum

CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2020-07-28 09:08
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Zhang Xinjun tracks a tee shot during the final round of the 3M Open at TPC Twin Cities in Blaine, Minnesota, on Sunday. The Chinese putter finished five shots behind winner Michael Thompson in a tie for 12th for his second straight top-15 finish. AFP

Chinese putter's fine form bodes well for upcoming FedExCup Playoffs debut

With three weeks remaining to the FedExCup Playoffs, China's Zhang Xinjun is certainly trending in the right direction.

The 33-year-old finished tied for 12th at the 3M Open on Sunday, sinking three birdies over his closing four holes to card an impressive final-round 67.

Zhang's 14-under total of 270 saw him end the week five back of winner Michael Thompson, who picked up his second PGA Tour victory.

The 35-year-old Thompson was solid throughout the tournament and didn't buckle under pressure, sinking a 12-foot putt on the par-five 18th to seal the win under sunny skies at TPC Twin Cities in Blaine, Minnesota.

"It has been a long time," an emotional Thompson said after closing with a 4-under 67.

"I'm really sad my wife and kids aren't here to celebrate this with me. I can't wait to see them. Babe, I love you," said the American.

A week ago, Zhang ended a dismal run of four missed cuts on the PGA Tour since the "Return to Golf "last month as he savored an excellent tied-10th outing at the Memorial Tournament, an event hosted by golf legend Jack Nicklaus. That was his third top-10 of the season.

After hitting 11 greens in regulation during his final round, Zhang, who is enjoying a second season on the PGA Tour after his rookie season in 2018, must thank his reliable putter for keeping him on the leaderboard.

He holed putts of 14 feet and 17 feet for early birdies on the third and fifth holes to get his round going before making five more birdies with some solid play against three bogeys to ensure another creditable performance.

Zhang's fine finish takes him up six places to 58th on the FedExCup points list, assuring him of a maiden appearance in the lucrative FedEx-Cup Playoffs next month.

The winner of the playoffs' finale at the Tour Championship in Atlanta will earn a bumper $15 million top prize.

"I played well in the first two rounds but my iron play was not quite good in round three and four which affected my on-green accuracy. I was struggling at times," said Zhang, who moves up five places to No 118 in the latest world rankings.

"However, when the ball was on the green, I could make birdie and I secured many chances. My putting was also good. In general, I am satisfied with the T12 finish this week.

"I will take a rest for two weeks and will try to improve my strokes and my swing. I hope to enjoy more breakthroughs in future events."

Meanwhile, there was more to cheer for Chinese golf on the Korn Ferry Tour, where 'Marty' Dou Zecheng concluded his week in a share of 14th place at the Price Cutter Charity Championship.

Dou closed with a final-round 70, with his 15-under 273 aggregate leaving him six shots back of winner Max McGreevy. It was Dou's second top-15 finish in his last three starts as he finished tied-12th at the TPC San Antonio Challenge at the Canyons two weeks ago.

Dou, the PGA Tour Series-China order of merit champion in 2016, played on the PGA Tour alongside Zhang in 2018. Like Zhang, Dou also holds two wins on the Korn Ferry Tour.

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