CHINA'S Haotong Li has secured himself superstar status in his homeland after taking out the China Open with an incredible final round 64.
Li became just the second Chinese player to take the title since it became part of the European Tour schedule in 2005, Ashun Wu the first to achieve the feat when he was a surprise winner last year.
Just 20 years of age, Li has long been tipped as China's most exciting prospect and his first European Tour victory has cemented that reputation.
Li has been playing America's secondary Web.com Tour the last two years after winning the PGA Tour China Order of Merit in 2014, but having now secured full playing rights in Europe he may shift his focus there.
His final round 64 was one of three 8-under rounds posted on the final day at the Topwin Golf and Country Club, one of the other two coming from Australia's Scott Hend.
With a 72 hole total of 22-under-par, Li was a three shot winner from overnight leader Felipe Aguilar while Hend moved 19 places up the standings to be T6 at 17-under for the week.
It was Hend's second consecutive top 10 after a T4 result at last week's Shenzhen International.
JOHN DALY'S SON PAYS HIS DAD A SPECIAL TRIBUTE:
But the day belonged to Li whose flawless card took him from two shots behind at the start of the round to three clear by day's end.
Matching nines of 32 applied pressure to the leaders and when Aguilar hit an inexplicably poor shot into the water at the par-3 17th the tournament was Li's to lose.
“You know this year it's been a hard time even though I work hard every week I still play bad,” an emotional Li said immediately after the victory.
“Especially last week [the Shenzhen International where Li missed the cut]. I worked hard there but couldn't control my ball and couldn't make anything.
“But this week I tried to relax, to relax myself and I'm really, really happy to see I'm holding the trophy here.”
An aggressive player by nature, Li gave his caddie credit for a sensible play on the final hole which ensured the victory.
Teeing off the par-5 18th with a three shot cushion, Li wanted to go for the green in two but his caddie talked him out of it.
“After I hit my tee shot I was walking to my second shot and I thought I need to go hybrid and get to the front edge of the green and have a chance for eagle,” he said.
“But my caddie said 'Hey, Hao Tong, you've already got a three shot lead. You've just got to lay up and make par to win.'
“So it's thanks to him!”
Richard Bland, Lucas Bjerregaard and Marcel Siem shared third place at 18-under while Hend was part of a three way share of sixth place.
For the second consecutive week Hend was dangerously close to his best form and opened his Sunday round with five birdies in his first six holes.
His only blemish came at the short par-4 7th and after hitting back immediately with a birdie at the next he went to the turn in 31.
While three birdies coming in was impressive golf it was never going to be enough though Hend will take plenty of confidence from yet another remarkable week where he made 25 birdies and an eagle in 72 holes.
Nathan Holman was next best of the Australians at 11-under and T28 while Brett Rumford was a shot further back and T34.
Jason Scrivener signed for a final round 68 to move 12 places up the leaderboard to T44 while Nick Cullen fired his third round of 2-under 70 for the week to finish 7-under and T48.
David Mackenzie was the last of the Australians to make the cut but blew out to a frustrating final round 80 to finish in last place at 4-over for the week.
MARK GIBSON WITH SOME TIPS ON SHOOTING BETTER SCORES:
CHINA OPEN FINAL LEADERBOARD
|T6||SCOTT HEND (AUS)||-17|
|T28||NATHAN HOLMAN (AUS)||-11|
|T34||BRETT RUMFORD (AUS)||-10|
|T44||JASON SCRIVENER (AUS)||-8|
|T48||NICK CULLEN (AUS)||-7|
|66||DAVID MACKENZIE (AUS)||+4|
|MC||DANIEL VALENTE (aus)|
|MC||JOSH YOUNGER (AUS)|
|MC||DIMI PAPADATOS (AUS)|
|MC||SCOTT STRANGE (AUS)|
|MC||JAMIE ARNOLD (AUS)|
|MC||STEVEN JEFFRESS (AUS)|
|MC||MICHAEL SIM (AUS)|
|MC||JASON NORRIS (AUS)|
|MC||LINCOLN TIGHE (AUS)|
|MC||WADE ORMSBY (AUS)|
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