China Tour battle revs up at Mitsubishi Electric Open

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Promising China Tour stars are ready to shine at the inaugural Mitsubishi Electric Open, which tees off on Thursday at Suzhou Taihu International Golf Club in Suzhou, Jiangsu province.

With a total prize pool of half a million yuan (about $70,000), the event, which is the fourth leg of this year's China Tour, has attracted a field of 84 golfers, among which eight feature in the top 10 of the circuit's order of merit.

Ma Chengyao, who leads the order of merit, will go for a second consecutive victory in Suzhou, having triumphed earlier this month at the Hengdian Championship in Zhejiang province.

"This will be the first time I've played at the Mitsubishi Electric Open. I have already achieved my goal this season, but now I feel there are bigger goals for me to aim for," said the 33-year-old from Hunan province.

The winner of this season's China Tour will be awarded a ticket to the prestigious DP World Tour (previously known as the European Tour), so every tournament matters. Ma holds a slender lead of about 38,000 yuan atop the order of merit, with second-placed She Zihan and third-placed Chen Dinggen hoping to grab top spot by producing their best form in Suzhou.

Zhang Jin is also among the chasing pack and is hopeful of challenging on the leaderboard. The 27-year-old impressed the fans when winning last year's Volvo China Open in Shenzhen, Guangdong province.

"I'm really looking forward to this new tournament. I hope I can display my skills at Suzhou Taihu International Golf Club, and I just want to enjoy the competition as much as possible," said Zhang.

"Now I just need to have a good mindset. I don't want to think too much about the title or ranking. If I can manage to do that, the final result shouldn't be too bad."

A rising star to watch is 18-year-old Tong Yang, who despite being in his rookie professional season, sits fourth on the order of merit. The young talent has shown his potential with two top-three finishes at the last two China Tour events — the Shenyang International Open and the Hengdian Championship.

"There are not too many tournaments left this season, so I want to seize the chance to prove myself. My goal is to eventually top the order of merit this season," said Tong.

"I have kept training and improving my physical condition, and have prepared as best I can. I want to secure a win this season, and I need to finish well each day. The Mitsubishi Electric Open is a good chance."

The Mitsubishi Electric Open has also attracted Chinese golfers who are enjoying success on foreign tours. They include Ye Wocheng, who plays on the PGA Tour Canada, and Bai Zhengkai, who produced a personal-best result of tied-13th at the Czech Masters on the DP World Tour in August.

"Golf is not an easy sport as so many factors can affect the result. Each tournament is different and full of challenges. That's the charm of the sport. As a player, of course I hope to win this title, but the important thing is to just focus on the next swing," said Bai.

As this is the first edition of the tournament, the organizers of Mitsubishi Electric Open hope this week's action can begin to build the event into a valuable platform for domestic talent to shine and grow.

"Through the Mitsubishi Electric Open, we hope to facilitate the growth of professional golf in Suzhou. The event will be an important channel to promote the culture and spirit of golf," said Li Jinliang, an official of the China Golf Association.

"This is an important platform for golfers from across the nation to compete and shine. And we believe the success of the event will further facilitate the growth of golf in our nation."

Suzhou Taihu International Golf Club is also thrilled to welcome elite national players to display their skills on the course.

"In recent years we have been comprehensively leveling up the experience for players at our club. Staging more professional events, of course, helps in this regard. So we are very confident in guaranteeing the quality of the Mitsubishi Electric Open and ensuring it is a golfing feast in Suzhou. We hope to create good memories for all participants," said Sun Qi, the general manager of the club.

The players' ambitions and the efforts of organizers were welcomed by event sponsor Mitsubishi Electric.

"The spirit of golf echoes the motto of our company — Changes for the better," said Zhang Wei, CEO of Mitsubishi Electric China. "The Mitsubishi Electric Open is a great opportunity for us, and we will continue to facilitate the growth of Chinese golf."

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