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Carl clings on in battle for PGA Tour survival

China Daily | Updated: 2023-11-14 09:25
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Carl Yuan Yechun of China tracks a shot during the final round of the Butterfield Bermuda Championship at Port Royal Golf Course on Sunday in Southampton, Bermuda. Yuan finished solo-fourth after carding rounds of 70, 63, 65 and 66 for a 20-under total of 264. GETTY IMAGES

Career-best finish gives Chinese putter excellent chance of retaining his card

China's Carl Yuan Yechun produced a career-best solo-fourth finish at the Butterfield Bermuda Championship on Sunday to boost his hopes of retaining his PGA Tour card for next season with one tournament remaining, the FedExCup Fall.

On a day when Colombia's Camilo Villegas ended a nine-year drought to claim his first career PGA Tour title by two shots, the 26-year-old Yuan closed his week with a gutsy 5-under 66 to earn 135 FedExCup points. That saw him rise from 134th to 125th position in the FedExCup standings, which is the cutoff for players to keep their cards for 2024.

With his distinctive follow-through action, Yuan fought gallantly throughout the week despite not producing his best golf, hitting only five fairways and 11 greens in regulation during the final round at Port Royal Golf Course.

However, he scrambled bravely as he hit seven birdies against an opening bogey to finish four strokes behind Villegas.

"I'm very satisfied. I stayed patient enough. Actually, I didn't do well on my swing and putting, but I kept my faith. I have the belief I can make it. Golf is hard and the only thing I needed to do was to focus on each shot. I did well in trusting myself over the last three rounds," said Yuan, who bettered his previous career-best finish — a tied-sixth at the Sanderson Farms Championship last month.

After opening with a lackluster 70 on Thursday, Yuan said he was in a "dark place" but revealed a text-message exchange with his wife, Cathy, brought some spark back to his game.

"I was very frustrated. My wife texted me and I did not even feel like talking to her, which is bad. There were so many mistakes I made mentally or just stuff like made me really frustrated and putted poorly," said Yuan. "She's always very supportive. She knows how hard the job is and it can spiral very quickly sometimes. She always tells me she loves me no matter what and I just come out here and try to get my job done.

"Felt like I was in a pretty dark place (after the first round), but before the second round, it's like might as well see what I've got in me. I texted my wife and said I'm going to do it even if it doesn't feel good, the game doesn't feel good. I had a strong enough belief. I think I did a great job executing that today. Did not get mad, angry or frustrated over any bad swing, bad shots and I really did a good job just staying shot by shot, hole by hole. Yeah, I was very proud of what I did today."

With the 2022-23 season winding up with the RSM Classic at Sea Island in Georgia this week, Yuan, who graduated from the Korn Ferry Tour last season, knows he needs to hold his nerve again to remain inside the top 125. If he can manage to squeeze in, he will be eligible for every "Full Field" PGA Tour event next year, including the Players Championship.

"I did well this week to put myself in a good position for the final push at Sea Island. I think I've just got to keep doing the same thing, not really let that thought get in my way, just keep doing what I do shot by shot. I think just being patient. I mean, really trust myself. When I step up, I've got to make sure I'm 100 percent trusting myself. In the past, I definitely lacked that and I made a pretty big commitment after my first round actually, I really did well over the last three days."

Compatriot Marty Dou Zecheng finished tied-65th on Sunday to drop from 127th to 132nd on the FedExCup standings while Chinese Taipei's CT Pan, who missed the halfway cut, dropped from 125th to 129th. Rookie Kevin Yu of Chinese Taipei finished tied-30th and rose three spots to 112th in the standings.

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