Li lauds China's classy new breed

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File photo of Li Haotong.

Li Haotong hailed the huge strides being made by Chinese golf after homegrown talent took the Volvo China Open by storm over the weekend.

A superb final two rounds (66-66) saw Li claim the Rong Gaotang Award as the top Chinese finisher after his 16-under 272 was good enough for fourth place, four shots back of Finnish winner Mikko Korhonen, who beat France's Benjamin Hebert in a playoff.

Li's compatriot Wu Ashun also thrilled the home fans, leading the field after 36 holes but eventually seeing his challenge fade to finish at 15-under.

It was the performances of two Chinese teenagers that really set tongues wagging at Shenzhen's Genzon Golf Club.

Seventeen-year-old Liang Enqi produced a final-round 70 to finish at 10-under for a share of 29th place and earn the prize for the best amateur.

On Friday, 14-year-old Kuang Yang caused a major stir by becoming the second youngest player to make the cut at a European Tour event.

He closed with a 73 for a share of 55th place.

The sequence of sensational results for the home hopes left Li in no doubt that the future of Chinese golf is bright.

"The game's heading in the right direction here in China," said the 23-year-old, a two-time winner on the European Tour.

"It's great to see Kuang Yang, who is only 14, making the cut and it's amazing to see these juniors making Chinese people proud."

On his own performance, Li said: "I played quite solid this weekend but still made a couple of mistakes. But overall, I'm very happy to end the week with two birdies in a row.

"It's very pleasing to come back home and play like this. I've been playing very solid again and it's nice to know your game's back."

Korhonen's victory was his second European Tour title as he became the first Finnish winner in the event's 25-year history.

He and Hebert were tied at 20-under after 72 holes, but Korhonen's 11-foot birdie putt on the first extra hole earned him the 443,817-euro ($500,000) winner's check.

"I have never experienced a playoff before so it was a new situation for me. I felt like I had nothing to lose and just tried to make birdie," said Korhonen, who produced a gutsy final-round 66 to claw back Hebert's three-shot overnight lead.

"I just decided to go for it. I think I was more nervous over the par putt on 18 that got me into the playoff in the first place.

"Winning this title is an amazing feeling. I came with no expectations, no plans, I just wanted to play my own game. It's actually great to play without goals.

"The putter was my winning formula as I made quite a few birdies from outside of 15-20 feet."

Hebert closed with a 69, while Spain's Jorge Campillo carded a 67 to finish third at 19-under.

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