Dou Zecheng

Meet the Chinese pro who Bubba Watson believes could be Asia’s Next Big Thing

Dou Zecheng in action during last month’s Shenzhen International

Bubba Watson knows a good thing when he sees it - and in young rising talent Dou Zecheng, the two-time Masters champion believes China has a definite star of the future.

Dou, who played the first 36 holes of last month’s Shenzhen International with Watson and defending champion Kiradech Aphibarnrat, put in a superb third-round performance to shoot 67 and then followed that up with a steady 70 to end the event in a tie for 16th. The 19-year-old finished as the best-placed Chinese player, beating the likes of crowd favourite Li Haotong, who 12 months ago lost in a play-off to Kiradech at the inaugural championship.

“He’s a very good player and I love watching him play,” said Watson, who fired a final-round 66 at Shenzhen Genzon Golf Club to make a big move up the leader board on the Sunday. “We don’t often see an Asian-born player swinging that hard and that aggressively. He has no fear.”

Watson, who was playing at the Shenzhen International for the second successive year, was particularly impressed with Dou’s power off the tee. Although slight in stature, Dou, who hails from Liaoning province, generates tremendous clubhead speed and is able to propel the ball vast distances.

“Obviously as he matures and gets older he’s going to get better and better, because as long as he is, he can overpower a golf course,” added the American left-hander, who triumphed at Augusta National Golf Club in 2012 and 2014.

Dou enjoyed a stellar amateur career – which included finishing in a tie for fourth at the 2013 Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship – before joining the paid ranks in late 2014. Last year, in his first full season as a professional, he finished fourth in the PGA Tour China Series Order of Merit, earning ¥483,813 (approximately US$75,000) from 12 events. His performance this week at Shenzhen Genzon Golf Club saw him net him close to half of that alone.

“Playing with some of the best players in the world this week has been great,” said Dou, whose previous best finish on the European Tour came at last year’s BMW Masters where he ended in a share of 37th. “I’ve been playing pretty well since the end of last year – my game feels good, my driving distance has increased and my irons are more accurate. I’ve learned a lot and I feel like I have improved to a new level.

“It was very nice of Bubba to say nice things about me,” added Dou. “I talked to his caddie, Ted, and he said that some parts of Bubba’s game and my game are similar, which I put down to the fact we both have our own style of swings. But I’d love to play like Bubba in the future. He’s great.”

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