LI CHAO KING OF THE MOUNTAINS IN YANJI
Li Chao romped to a four-stroke victory in the US$100,000 Yanji Golf Championship today for his first victory of the season on the Omega China Tour.
The towering golfer fired a one-under-par 71 on the Mountain Course at Yanji Harangang Golf Resort, situated in the hills above the North Korean border.
Zheng Wengen and Huang Mingjie finished second after rounds of 70 and 74 respectively.
The number 13 proved unlucky for Chen Xiaoma, the leader after the second and third rounds, as he chalked up a quadruple bogey eight on that hole to finish with a 77 in fourth place, five behind the winner.
Li’s success was his fifth victory on the circuit – the most by any player. He won twice during the tour’s inaugural year of 2005, when he claimed the Order of Merit title, and twice last year, when he was second on the Merit list.
“It’s a relief to finally win again. I have been slowly getting back to my best form step by step. Today’s leader board showed how many good new players are coming through like Huang Mingjie, Yuan Hao and Chen Xiaoma. Competition is getting harder so I am going to have to work harder,” said Li, who finished with a four-round aggregate of one-over-par 289.
He started the day one behind leader Chen but easily claimed the first place cheque of US$19,470 after nailing five birdies and four bogies.
“I drove the ball and putted beautifully and I think playing here in the mountains of Yanji helped. It’s very quiet and peaceful. There are no distractions like in the city so it is easy to keep your focus,” added the 27-year-old from Beijing.
Li was due a win as he had finished eighth, second and fifth in the first three events this year. He was penalized two strokes in the second round for a rules infringement but that seem to spur him on over the weekend.
A former football goalkeeper, Li, was spotted at the age of 16 by a China Golf Association official and taken to the Beijing No. 77 Secondary School, which specializes in sport. He still has many football friends at national and club level.
The next event on tour is in Shanghai at the Grand Shanghai International Golf and Holiday Resort from August 9 to 11.