Yantai, Shandong, China: Joseph Winslow won his first career title with a three-shot victory over Japan’s Yuwa Kosaihira at the RMB1.5 million Yantai Championship, the seventh event of this year’s PGA Tour Series-China.
The 25-year-old American shot nine birdies in a closing seven-under 65 for a 19-under total of 269 as he made up a three-shot deficit on the back nine to overtake 20-year-old Kosaihira (69), who led the six-foot-five-inch-tall American and Chinese amateur ‘Carl’ Yuan Yechun by one shot starting the final round.
Yuan, 21, played with Winslow and Kosaihira in the final group for the second straight day and shot a 71 to share third at 13-under alongside Thai Gunn Charoenkul (68), a two-time winner playing on the Tour for the first time this year.
Korean Todd Baek, who started the week third on the Order of Merit, opened with five straight birdies en route to a 67 to share fifth with American Charlie Netzel (69) and New Zealand’s Mathew Perry (70) at 11-under, one ahead of Hong Kong’s Yeung Mo-tin (70), who was second on the Order of Merit after winning last month’s Kunming Championship.
After nine holes, Winslow – who led after the first and second rounds – was three shots behind Kosaihira, who had carded four straight birdies from the fifth on his way to a front nine of 32. Winslow birdied 10 and drew level after the Japanese double-bogeyed the par-three 11th.
Both players birdied 12 and Kosaihira took the lead after an eagle at 15, which Winslow birdied. Winslow then led for the first time on Sunday after he chipped-in for a birdie on the par-three 16th and Kosaihira bogeyed, and the American carried a one-shot buffer to the 18th, a hole he had bogeyed a day earlier to lose a share of the lead.
“I wasn’t thinking about yesterday’s bogey. I knew that the key was to hit a good drive. I hit it a little more left than I wanted, but I knew where the pin was and I still had a good angle,” said Winslow, who struck his next shot to 10 feet, before sinking the putt and screaming in delight.
Winslow was 20th on the Order of Merit coming into this event and will make a big jump towards his goal of finishing the year in the top-five to earn Web.com Tour status for 2019 after earning RMB270,000, more than double his earnings from the previous six events.
“It’s one step at a time, one tournament at a time. There’s a lot of work I still have to do,” said Winslow, who won the second International Qualifying Tournament in Hainan in February.
Despite six birdies and an eagle in his final round, Kosaihira let Winslow back in with his double-bogey at 11. But the talented youngster is hopeful he’ll have more chances to get a win.
“I’m happy with the tournament, but really disappointed with my double-bogey on 11. Joseph played well and hit a very nice chip-in on 16,” said Kosaihira, who lives in Osaka. “I’m playing well. I think I could have won today. It was very close.”
Yuan, who played at the University of Washington for three years, was excited about a tie for third. After playing in Sunday’s final group for the past two events, he’s hoping to build further confidence at the next two events in Qingdao and Beijing as he prepares to play the Asian Games in Indonesia next month.
“I’m happy with the week overall. I played a really good strategy and only made four bogeys for the week and nothing worse than a bogey,” said Yuan, who tied for 18th at last month’s Kunming Championship.
Every tournament on this year’s PGA Tour Series-China offers RMB1.5 million, a 25-per cent increase over purse levels from 2016.