... thinks he has found secret to success

China’s Yuan enjoys top-5 finish at Valspar Championship

CHINA’S Carl Yuan thinks he may have unlocked the secret to finding more success on the PGA TOUR after finishing tied fifth for his second top-10 of the season at the Valspar Championship on Sunday.

Yuan, who turned 27 on Thursday, chipped in twice en route to a closing 3-under 68 at Innisbrook Resort’s Copperhead Course to finish on 8-under 276, four shots behind winner Peter Malnati who claimed an emotional two-stroke victory over Cameron Young following a 67.

Korea’s K.H. Lee was a further stroke back in a share of ninth after a 69 for his second top-10 finish in three starts but the two-time PGA TOUR winner was kicking himself after making two bogeys over his closing three holes.

“It was challenging and definitely played tough. I really hung in there, just trying to commit shot by shot. Don’t really let one bad shot or one poor result took my mind off it, just keep trusting it, committing it. Fortunately enough, I had a couple chip-ins and that was very exciting,” said Yuan, who is projected to rise to 74th place on the FedExCup points list.

The Chinese rising star chipped in from 35 yards for eagle on the par-5 fifth hole and then holed another chip from 56 feet on the eighth for birdie to notch a second top-5 result after a tied fourth place at the Sony Open in Hawaii in January. His strong week ended a lackluster run of form which saw him miss four cuts in six starts in between his two high finishes.

Yuan must thank his wife Cathy for giving him a timely reminder on his birthday to simply have “fun” on the golf course and not be consumed with the mechanics of the golf swing. As one of the more flamboyant golfers on TOUR where he often produces funky follow-through action with his finish, he took the advice to heart.

“Like my wife said, you just got to have fun. If she seen me out there not look like I’m having fun, she’s going to be pissed,” said Yuan. “I did a good job just keep myself entertained, just really have fun. Not making golf swings, just hitting golf shots. It’s a really challenging course already and people are going to make mistakes. I just make sure I don’t spiral down on mistakes.”

Yuan, who is seeking a maiden PGA TOUR title, conceded his confidence was at its lowest following his lack of success despite starting the season strongly in Hawaii but thinks the answer to his woes is to simply to swing it freely.

“You see pretty much everybody go on the range, work on stuff, you see coaches out here. It’s constant for a player to strive to be a better golfer in general, so definitely on the technical side we all want to be more consistent, but it may not work for everybody. Probably, particularly for me, that when I try to be too technical, like it just really takes my mind down a bad route,” he said.

“So, me just hitting shot after shot, making different golf swings, I mean, if I want to hit a 50-yard hook, I’m going to hit one here. There’s no swing on the range a coach is really going to teach to you to hit a 50-yard hook, but that’s how I like playing golf. I think that’s where my talent is in this game. I got to make sure I don’t take myself out of that.”

An emotional Malnati snapped an eight-year winless streak to capture his second PGA TOUR title in front of his family after surviving some nerves and a tough finishing stretch at Innisbrook. “I was so nervous. I can’t describe it, it’s so cool. You wonder if you’re ever going to do it again. It’s hard. In the nine (eight) years since my last win, you look at the level of talent out here and the guys who are 20 years old coming out, they are just so good. To have this moment, it feels amazing,” said the 36-year-old American.