Bhatia, Taiga Semikawa And Yuxin Set For American Express


(MENAFN- IANS) La Quinta, Jan 18 (IANS) Akshay Bhatia tees up for the third straight week as he hopes to maintain his progress after getting into the Top-100 of the world following consistent Top-15 finishes in the first two events of 2024 on the PGA Tour.

Bhatia will tee up with Nico Echavarria at the American Express, which includes 156 professionals and 156 amateurs competing at PGA WEST's Stadium Course (host course) and Nicklaus Tournament Course, and La Quinta Country Club. Only the top 65 and ties among professionals will play in the fourth and final round.

Bhatia was T-14 at the opening event, The Sentry, and then finished T-13 at the Sony Open. He opened with similar 69-64 on the first two days of both events and was in contention. Then he slipped but still did well to finish in Top-15.

Beginning the year at 109th, he climbed to 98th and into the Top-100 for the first time after Sentry and improved it to 91st after the Sony Open.

Aspiring Chinese golfer Yuxin Lin hopes to make a mark at The American Express in La Quinta, California as he seeks to maintain his learning curve in the game after joining the professional ranks last year.

The 23-year-old left-hander emerged as one of Asia's young golfers to watch after winning the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship twice in 2017 and 2019, which rewarded him with prized starts at the Masters Tournament and Open Championship.

Seeing compatriot Carl Yuan produce an eye-catching tied fourth finish at the Sony Open in Hawaii last weekend has also inspired Lin ahead of this week's US$8.4 million PGA TOUR tournament which features 21 players in the top 50 in the Officials World Golf Ranking, including World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler, Patrick Cantlay (No. 5), Xander Schauffele (No. 6) and 2023 U.S. Open winner Wyndham Clark (No. 10).

The in-form Yuan is also in this week's stellar field, and will be joined by Korean stars Sungjae Im, Tom Kim and Si Woo Kim, who triumphed in The American Express in 2021, and upcoming Japanese golfers Taiga Semikawa and Ryo Hisatsune.

American Taiga Semikawa will aim to put on an improved performance in his second consecutive PGA Tour appearance at The American Express, starting Thursday at PGA WEST in La Quinta, California.

Last week at the Sony Open in Hawaii, the 23-year-old Semikawa found himself in contention, reaching the 54-hole mark in joint fourth place and just three shots off the lead.

However, he failed to mount a strong challenge on the final day and settled for a nevertheless best-ever tied 30th position.

With another two starts secured, including next week's Farmers Insurance Open through sponsors' invite, Semikawa knows he has to make his chances count.

Semikawa also played in The American Express and Farmers Insurance Open last year, but he missed the cut on both occasions.

Semikawa considers himself a much more accomplished golfer than he was 12 months ago, attributing his improvement over the past year to the intense rivalry with Keita Nakajima and Takumi Kanaya during last season's JGTO.

He ultimately secured the second spot on the Money Rankings, with Nakajima leading the pack.

"Compared to last year, I really feel that my game has improved quite a lot to be able to play this well," said Semikawa.

"I still have work to do to get to Takumi and Keita's level, but having many close battles against them over the course of last season really pushed me to improve my own game."

Ryo Hisatsune will be another JGTO competitor in action at PGA WEST, aiming to improve on his tied-30th finish from last week in his debut as a PGA Tour member.

Hisatsune earned his PGA Tour card through an impressive season on the DP World Tour.

In a notable change last season, the European circuit granted playing privileges on the PGA Tour to the top 10 finishers in its Race to Dubai standings who were not otherwise exempt.

This marked the first time such an opportunity was offered to players from the European circuit.

--IANS

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