Wu wins China Open for 1st Euro­pean Tour ti­tle

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY JUSTIN BERGMAN

With two Chi­nese golfers tied for the lead go­ing into the fi­nal round of the Volvo China Open, there was a good chance one of them would be­come the first from the coun­try to cap­ture a Euro­pean Tour ti­tle on home soil.

Most eyes were on Li Hao­tong at the start of the round, the tal­ented 19-year-old touted as a fu­ture golf star in China. In­stead, it was Wu Ashun, a player near­ing 30 who had re­cently taken six months off to rebuild his swing and had never had a top-10 fin­ish on the tour, who took home the tro­phy.

Wu proved to be the stead­i­est player dur­ing a fi­nal round filled with mo­men­tum swings, de­light­ing the crowd in his home­town of Shang­hai with a fi­nal-round 71 to se­cure a one-stroke victory over David How­ell on Sun­day. Wu fin­ished at 9-un­der 279 over­all.

“I tried my best to play ev­ery shot well,” he said. “I played very good to­day — not down, not up. Just sim­ple golf to­day.”

It was not only the big­gest ti­tle of Wu’s ca­reer, but also the big­gest pay­check. He takes home nearly 500,000 eu­ros (NT$16.7 mil­lion; US$543,000) — more than dou­bling how much he’s earned in seven years on the Euro­pean Tour.

“There’s a long jour­ney in a golf ca­reer, some­one can hit a low score in their 30s, 40s, so I have to just be pa­tient and keep prac­tic­ing, keep play­ing the tour­na­ments, and it will come,” Wu said through a trans­la­tor.

Wu is the third Chi­nese player to win on the tour and the first since Liang Wen-Chong took the ti­tle at the Sin­ga­pore Masters in 2007.

How­ell missed a five-foot par putt on the 18th that would have forced a play­off. It was just one of four bo­geys for the vet­eran Eng- lish­man, who also had four birdies in his round of 72.

Emil­iano Grillo of Ar­gentina had a spir­ited run on the fi­nal day, mak­ing four birdies in five holes on the front nine and two more on the back to pull within one shot of the lead. But his chances of win­ning a maiden Euro­pean Tour ti­tle slipped away with a tee shot into the wa­ter on No. 17, lead­ing to dou­ble bo­gey.

He shot a 69 to fin­ish in a tie for third with de­fend­ing cham­pion Alexander Levy of France (73) and Prom Mee­sawat of Thai­land (71).

Wu started the day in a four­way tie for the lead with How­ell, Levy and Li, but he had played the least re­cently. He was com­ing off a six-month break to work on his swing with his coach in Cal­i­for­nia and didn’t make the cut at a Ja­pan Tour event last week.

Li, on the other hand, nearly won his first Euro­pean Tour ti­tle last week at the Shen­zhen In­ter­na­tional, los­ing in a play­off to Thai­land’s Ki­radech Aphibarn­rat.

Li, how­ever, didn’t look sharp from the first hole Sun­day. With hun­dreds of ex­cited fans lining the green, phones poised to snap pho­tos, he missed a rou­tine 3-foot par putt that caught the lip of the cup and curled away, drawing gasps from the gallery.

It was just the start of an upand-down day for the ris­ing star. He made a 50-foot birdie putt on No. 8 and then a tremen­dous ap­proach and nervy putt for ea­gle on the par-5 No. 13, but also missed a num­ber of rel­a­tively easy putts from close in, the frus­tra­tion ap­par­ent on his face.

He carded five bo­geys — more than his first three rounds com­bined — and fin­ished tied for sixth at 6-un­der 282.

“It’s a great ex­pe­ri­ence for me, es­pe­cially con­sid­er­ing I still fin- ished sixth, which is much bet­ter than last year, so I learned a lot,” he said.

How­ell had vastly more ex­pe­ri­ence than the Chi­nese play­ers, with 523 starts on the Euro­pean Tour com­pared to just 26 for Wu and 13 for Li. Ten years ago in Shang­hai, he fought then-No. 1 Tiger Woods in the fi­nal round of the HSBC Cham­pi­ons — and won the ti­tle.

But How­ell missed when it mat­tered most, try­ing to save par af­ter his ap­proach on the 18th left him with a long putt. When his shot skirted by the left side of the hole, thou­sands of Chi­nese fans around the Tom­son Golf Club erupted in cheers.

“Ob­vi­ously a cry­ing shame for me not to come home with the tro­phy, but there’s I don’t know how many bil­lion peo­ple who are rather pleased I made six on the last,” How­ell said.

AP

Tour­na­ment win­ner Wu Ashun, of China, holds up a golf ball as he greets spec­ta­tors dur­ing the award cer­e­mony of the Volvo China Open golf tour­na­ment in Shang­hai on Sun­day, April 26.

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