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China's Yuan, Dou looking to enjoy a hole lot of laughs

China Daily | Updated: 2024-04-26 09:03
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Carl Yuan Yechun and Cathy Yuan douse Marty Dou Zecheng with water after Dou finishes the final round of The Ascendant at TPC Colorado on July 3, 2022 in Berthoud, Colorado. Dou won the tournament with a score of 17 under par. GETTY IMAGES

Long-time friends Carl Yuan Yechun and Marty Dou Zecheng will team up for the first time in the Zurich Classic of New Orleans this weekend, with the intention of having plenty of fun and laughter as they seek to shine at TPC Louisiana.

The Chinese duo, who are both 27, have known each other for nearly 20 years, since a playoff encounter during a junior competition, and their respective rises onto the PGA Tour have taken similar paths, despite different approaches during their amateur days.

"I think this year he is definitely the best teammate I could have," said Dou, who is making his third appearance in the only two-man team competition which counts towards the FedExCup race.

"I'm excited to play with Marty," added Yuan. "Obviously, we grew up playing together, since junior golf, and we know each other's game really well. We know that if we have a good week out here, we can do great things."

Playing in his second season on the PGA Tour, Yuan has enjoyed two top-five finishes, while Dou, who has limited playing rights after finishing outside the Top-125 of the rankings last season, makes only his fourth start. They featured on the Korn Ferry Tour for several seasons together, which helped forge their friendship further.

Neither has made the cut previously at TPC Louisiana when playing with different partners, which uses Fourball and Foursome (alternate shot) formats on alternate days, but the close friends think they have a simple strategy for success this week.

"Carl has told me a lot about making birdies, so it's good for another bogey," laughed Dou, who was the joint first-round leader with compatriot Zhang Xinjun in 2018 following a 60, but missed the cut after a second round 80.

"That could be something we think about during the first round (Fourball). We want to get to the top of the leaderboard, so you've got keep making birdies, and there shouldn't be bogeys coming out of that, even for alternate shots. I know if I miss a shot, he won't blame me, or even if he does, it's between friends. I think it'll be more relaxed. The year with Xinjun, we were leading the first round, then shot eight over, because we thought we had a lot of strokes."

Yuan added: "No matter how we're playing, great or average, we're going to have a great time. We don't often get these kinds of opportunities to be partners. It's something that means a lot more to us than winning golf tournaments. Just being out here, having a good time and seeing what we can do this week."

After dominating the amateur golf scene in China, Dou turned professional when he was 17, while Yuan took the US collegiate route by attending the University of Washington and joined the play-for-pay ranks upon his graduation in 2018, the same year Dou enjoyed his debut season on the PGA Tour.

Dou keeps a close eye on Yuan's progress, and has been impressed by his friend's achievements this season. "I saw Carl had a couple of top-five results. He's good with those chip-ins, knocking it close for tap-in birdies. I'm expecting that from him this week. If I miss a green, he chips it in," smiled Dou, who had a best of T32 at the Puerto Rico Open this season.

With another team competition on the horizon later this year — with the Presidents Cup scheduled at Royal Montreal in September — Yuan hopes he can launch a late charge to be in the running for the International Team to face the USA.

"It's definitely one of my top goals for the year," said Yuan, who holds one victory on the Korn Ferry Tour.

"I mean, I will continue to work hard towards it, and put in more time, more effort and have a more complete team to help me achieve that.

"Playing great golf will take care of everything. I just have to stick to my process and do my daily stuff well to hopefully achieve that."

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