Birthday Boy Kocher on a High in Haikou

David Kocher celebrates with his caddie following his victory. Picture by PGA Tour Series-China/Zhuang Liu

Haikou, China: American David Kocher claimed the perfect birthday gift as he defeated Japan’s Yuwa Kosaihira in a sudden-death play-off at the weather-affected Haikou Championship.

The third round resumed at 7:20 am following Saturday’s weather delays, and the final round started shortly after at 7:30 am, in a bid to finish the tournament before anticipated lightning in the afternoon. Groupings stayed the same for the third and fourth rounds.

Kocher and Kosaihira, who were playing in the seventh and sixth-to-last-groups, respectively, both carded closing six-under 66s at Sunac Haikou 3KM Golf Club in the third event of this year’s PGA Tour Series-China.

After Kocher set the early clubhouse lead at 10-under, Kosaihira had the first look at victory when he hit the flagstick with his approach on 18, which left him with a 15-foot putt to overtake Kocher. But it wasn’t to be.

After the final groups failed to match the clubhouse leaders, Kocher and Kosaihira headed to a play-off, which landed comfortably in Kocher’s lap after Kosaihira lost his ball on the tee shot when it bounced off the cart path and into the bushes. Kosaihira went on to make a double bogey while Kocher sunk a 10-foot birdie putt.

For Kocher, who celebrated his 23rd birthday on Saturday, the win came a little less than a year since he graduated from the University of Maryland.

After starting the final round with eight straight pars, Kocher picked up his first birdie on hole nine. From that point he played flawlessly, picking up five birdies on the back nine in a bogey-free round.

It was an outstanding performance by Kocher, who only earned conditional status at Q-School in February. At the PGA Tour Series-China’s season-opening event in Chongqing, he progressed through a Monday qualifier and finished third before another top-20 finish last week in Sanya helped him earn his place in this week’s event.

“No more Monday qualifiers. That’s a huge plus,” said Kocher, who has already exceeded his goals for the year. “It feels awesome. My goal for this year was to finish in the top 25 and get to second stage (of the Tour Final Qualifying Tournament). I think this win will give me a huge boost. I can set some new goals.”

Yuwa Kosaihira couldn’t conceal his disappointment after losing in a play-off.
Picture by PGA Tour Series-China/Zhuang Liu

Kocher is no stranger to winning golf tournaments. As an amateur, he won the North Carolina Open in 2016 and 2017 while still enrolled at the University of Maryland and won again on the GPro Tour at Mimosa Hills Country Club after he graduated in 2018. He admits those wins don’t compare.

“This is definitely the biggest win of my career, and it feels the best. I’m really happy with where my game is at. I’ve been playing well this whole year,” said Kocher, who doesn’t have any plans to rest after three consecutive events in China. “I’ll celebrate a little tonight and then have an early flight home (to the US) … and then celebrate with friends and family there.”

Singapore’s Quincy Quek, who was playing in the final group, came up one shot short of a play-off after carding a 68 to finish solo third, one stroke ahead of former PGA Tour player Justin Hicks, who finished with a tournament low 65.

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