Dou focuses on relaxation to reverse shaky PGA start

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Dou Zecheng of China celebrates a birdie putt during the first round at the WGC-HSBC Champions at the Sheshan International golf club in Shanghai on Oct 26, 2017.

When China's Dou Zecheng tees off against an elite field at the Farmers Insurance Open in California on Thursday, he'll be looking to reverse a rough start to life on the PGA Tour.

Dou, who turned 21 on Monday, believes he has been putting too much pressure on himself to perform after becoming the first Chinese to graduate from the Tour to the premier PGA circuit.

In seven tournaments so far this season, Dou has missed five cuts, withdrawn from one and finished tied for 69th in the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions on home soil.

He is counting on better luck at Torrey Pines Golf Course, which will showcase top stars including new world No 2 Jon Rahm, Jason Day, Justin Rose, Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler and Tiger Woods.

"I think I've been taking golf too seriously. Apart from golf, I don't have too much going on during my days off," he said.

"I'm surrounded by golf all the time and it has given me added pressure. I think I've focused too much on trying to play good golf rather than just trying to enjoy the game.

"I'm trying to enjoy golf a bit more, but every time I hit a bad shot or three-putt, I get frustrated.

"I'm trying to not do that, but I guess it's something you're born with. I try to relax by playing video games regularly when I'm away from the course."

Dou's rise on to the PGA Tour tracks back to his exploits on the PGA Tour Series-China in 2016, when he topped the money list following four victories.

That earned him playing rights and he later became the first golfer from the Chinese mainland to win on the tour at the Digital Ally Open last season.

He earned his PGA Tour card following his 16th-place finish on the regular-season money list.

"It's been a good learning experience. I'm not that worried about the way I'm playing," said Dou.

"The courses on the PGA Tour are much more challenging than those on the I'll just try to stay patient and remain focused. Some of the Tour players like Chesson Hedley and Andrew Landry have done well this season, which is an encouragement to me."

Dou will also be hoping to do some Tiger spotting at Torrey Pines as former world No 1 Woods will be making his first official PGA Tour start in nearly a year.

Like many young golfers, Dou took up the game after watching Woods dominate the scene during the 2000s. "I watched Tiger a lot and remember when he won the 2005 Masters. He inspired people to get involved in the game, created many new fans and made the game popular and famous," said Dou.

"It'll be the first time I'm playing in the same tournament as Tiger and I'm really excited about that."

Compatriot Zhang Xinjun is also competing in the Farmers Insurance Open. In seven starts, Zhang, who also earned his PGA Tour card through the Tour, has made the cut in five tournaments, including a tie for 20th at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba, Mexico.

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