China's Li, Thailand's Jazz aim to score Presidents Cup spots

2019-07-18 03:55:02 GMT2019-07-18 11:55:02(Beijing Time) Xinhua English

WASHINGTON, July 17 (Xinhua) -- Asian golf stars Jazz Janewattananond, C.T. Pan and Li Haotong will come under close scrutiny at The Open Championship and World Golf Championships-FedEx St Jude Invitational as they look to lock in their Presidents Cup debuts.

With only five weeks remaining until the top eight players on the International Team and the United States Team officially qualify for the 2019 Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Australia from December 9-15, the trio will be gunning for personal glory as well as Official World Golf Ranking points in the next two weeks.

The 23-year-old Jazz, the money list leader on both the Asian Tour and Japan Golf Tour, sits on the bubble in eighth position on the International Team standings, thanks largely to wins in Singapore and South Korea this season.

Ranked 53rd in the world, a strong showing at The Open at Royal Portrush will enhance his Presidents Cup hopes as well as help him break into the world top 50. This would also mean qualifying for the WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational in Memphis next week.

It will truly be music to Jazz's ears if he squeezes into Memphis, an historic city famous for its rich music legacy of blues, soul and rock n' roll.

"It's a great opportunity to be here at The Open," said Jazz. "Playing in a major offers plenty of World Ranking points and hopefully I'll perform well to get into the top 50 and into the WGC-FedEx St Jude as well.

"These are basically the two tournaments I have to try to keep my position in the top 8 of the International Team standings before the qualifying deadline (in mid-August)," added the Thai, who made a name for himself following a commendable T14 finish at the PGA Championship in May.

China's Li will feature in his third successive Open appearance this week, with a magical third place finish at Royal Birkdale in 2017 still fresh in his memories. Currently fifth on the International Team's standings, the talented Chinese is tipped to challenge at Royal Portrush following a steady 2019 campaign comprising of three top 10s and three top 20s around the world.

"Yeah, for sure (I want to play in the Presidents Cup) since the last time I was nearly there. I just need to keep playing well. As no Chinese has played in the event before, I want to be the first. I think it'll be a great time for China golf and for my country," said Li of his Presidents Cup aspirations.

A two-time winner on the European Tour, Li is also chasing his PGA TOUR membership via the non-member FedExCup points list where he is only 16 points shy of earning Special Temporary Membership. As he is already in the elite field for the WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational, a fortnight of top results could see Li achieving his American dream.

International Team Captain Ernie Els has been keeping a close eye on Li, whom he played alongside when the young Chinese produced a final round 63 at Royal Birkdale. "He's a confident young man. He's [part of the] the new breed of Chinese power golfers and has a great attitude. Li can be a great addition to my team," said Els.

Pan, winner of the RBC Heritage on the PGA TOUR in April, is hoping to become the first golfer from Chinese Taipei to play in the Presidents Cup where he currently lies in sixth place on the team's standing.

The 27-year-old can strengthen his position over the next month and he virtually assured of his place in the first two FedExCup Playoffs events - THE NORTHERN TRUST and BMW Championship - in August.

"I want to make history by being the first one. The Ryder Cup sparks great enthusiasm amongst the fans and that's something I want to do for golf fans in Chinese Taipei. Our fans don't have a team to root for. I want to make the team for the fans," said Pan, who played a practice round with Li on Tuesday which could prove to be a formidable partnership at Royal Melbourne this December.