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Biding His Time

by Chuah Choo Chiang / Image: Getty Images

Such is his attitude towards life that Dou Zecheng is the kind of athlete who looks at his golf ball as being in the middle of the fairway rather than in an unlucky divot after unleashing a perfectly executed drive.

Young Chinese rising star Dou Zecheng has been to golfing heaven and back over the past three seasons yet he remains unfazed and undeterred after narrowly missing out on a quick return to the PGA Tour via the Korn Ferry Tour last season.

 

Dou, who will soon turn 23, finished 28th in the Korn Ferry Tour Regular Season points list, which was an agonising three rungs outside the top 25 which rewards players with PGA Tour cards for the 2019-20 Season.

 

What may hurt most is the fact that he won the season-opening tournament, The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay, and sat inside the top-25 for most of the season.

 

Inexplicably, from the joy of winning in his second Korn Ferry Tour title, Dou’s fortunes took a dip where he missed 15 cuts over his next 23 starts and missed out on a PGA Tour card which he held in 2018. He had secured entry into the world’s premier tour through the Korn Ferry Tour back in 2017. 

 

“Although it was up and down, I see it as a successful year,” said Dou. “I didn’t see it as a failure, although I ended up not getting the (PGA Tour) card. If I didn’t play good (win), I could have been back playing in China as I didn’t have full exempt on the Korn Ferry Tour. Winning was a good thing.”

 

Dou is prepared to bide his time on the Korn Ferry Tour which he believes is a great platform to make him a more complete golfer. When he played on the PGA Tour in 2018 he made only four cuts from 23 starts, and knew that he just wasn’t good enough to compete at the highest level in the game.

 

“I don’t want it to happen so fast. If I get my card back, it’s maybe too quick. I want to take it slowly and this might be good for me; perhaps slow and steady wins the race,” noted Dou.

 

After the dust settled in 2019, he reviewed the work he put in with coach Cameron McCormick, who also works with Jordan Spieth, and gave himself full marks for staying on course with his routine and work ethics.

 

“When I played on the PGA Tour, I didn’t spend enough time doing what I needed to do. And then coming out with a win in early 2019, I kept working hard and focused on my fitness. I might play around 20 events in 2020 and see how it goes. I played a lot in 2019 and at one stretch played 14 out of 15 weeks and maybe that got to me.”

 

Dou believes that his work with McCormick in Dallas, where he is based, will help him become the kind of golfer he wants to be. “He introduced a fitness programme whereby I go to the gym three times a week. My body started feeling really good and we’re also making changes to my game, focusing on my swing plane with the aim of creating more consistency in my ball striking and putting. I see Cameron once a week now, which is good, and there’s not a day at home (in Dallas) when I don’t have anything to do. I’m always working on something, trying to get better.”

Dou is looking forward to starting his 2020 Korn Ferry Tour Season on a strong note with his defence at the Bahamas. “I feel good about my game. I finished second twice on the China Tour (towards the end of 2019) and I had three good rounds at the WGC-HSBC Champions. I feel confident about getting my PGA Tour card next year.”

While Dou is living the American dream, he conceded that being away from China and his family offers different challenges. “Living in Dallas – golf is the biggest thing. There are great courses, good coaches, and good players around me, which is important. However, being Chinese out here, the difficult part is that I think about my family all the time; it can be tough if you’re not doing well. Thankfully, there are a couple of good Chinese restaurants in Dallas. That’s pretty important.”