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Yuan leapfrogs Li as leading Chinese mainland player

China Daily | Updated: 2021-05-18 09:48
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Carl Yuan of China plays his shot from the second tee during the Second Round of the Visit Knoxville Open at Holston Hills Country Club in Knoxville, Tennessee, US, on May 14, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

Another week, another top-10 on the Korn Ferry Tour for China's Carl Yuan Yechun.

This time, however, the performance holds greater significance for the 24-year-old rising star, who as a result replaces Li Haotong as the leading Chinese mainland golfer in the world rankings.

That in turn leaves Yuan in pole position to qualify as Team China's sole representative at this summer's Tokyo Olympics.

Yuan extended his recent run of fine form with a tied-seventh finish at the Visit Knoxville Open on Sunday, closing his week with a 5-under 65 at Holston Hills Country Club. His 13-under 267 total saw him finish seven shots behind winner Greyson Sigg.

It was his sixth top-10 of the 2020-21 Korn Ferry Tour season, which pushed him up to 22nd place in the points standings, inching him closer towards the PGA Tour.

The top 25 players will earn their PGA Tour cards in August at the 2021 Pinnacle Bank Championship. An additional 25 cards are awarded at the conclusion of the 2021 Korn Ferry Tour Finals, comprising three events.

Yuan's career-best 274th world ranking places him in 58th position on the latest men's qualifying ranking for the Olympics. The top-60 players as of June 21 will earn their right to represent their respective nations in Tokyo. Li, who plays primarily on the European Tour, slipped from 282nd to 293rd in the latest world rankings.

On Sunday, the Florida-based Yuan holed one eagle on the fifth, four birdies and a lone bogey and was duly rewarded for his crisp iron play which saw him hit 15 greens in regulation during the final round. He ranked tied-third for most greens hit all week.

He will enjoy a well-earned break this week following performances which saw him finish T16, T5 and joint runner-up over his last three starts before last week's event in Knoxville.

Countryman Marty Dou Zecheng closed with a 69 on Sunday to finish tied-27th and slipped down one rung on the Korn Ferry Tour rankings to 34th while Bobby Bai Zhengkai settled for a share of 64th position on 278.

Sunday's champion Sigg made a six-foot par putt on the 18th for a one-stroke win over Stephan Jaeger.

Trailing Jaeger by three at the start of the day, Sigg closed with a 66 to secure his first victory on the tour.

"I've been close (to winning) and it just speaks volumes to how hard this tour is and how good these guys are," said Sigg.

The Korn Ferry Tour travels to Kansas City, Missouri, for the AdventHealth Championship this week.

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