Zhang Xinjun bidding to end 2020 on high after recent slump in form

Zhang Xinjun, pictured during the Houston Open on Nov 5, is hoping to rediscover his form at this week’s RSM Classic in Georgia, United States. [Photo/Agencies]

China’s Zhang Xinjun plans to bounce back into top form at this week’s RSM Classic and finish a challenging 2020 with a flourish.

The 33-year-old, who will also play next week’s Mayakoba Golf Classic in Mexico, arrived at Sea Island Resort in Georgia on the back of three consecutive missed cuts which put the brakes on his fast start to the 2020-21 PGA Tour season. He produced top-15 finishes at the season-opening Safeway Open and Corales Puntacana Resort& Club Championship.

Zhang is making his third appearance at the RSM Classic. He missed the cut last year and finished tied-68th in his debut in 2017.

“Firstly, I want to make the cut (here). I missed three consecutive cuts and that was disappointing. I hope to reduce the mistakes and perform to my best. If I can make the cut, I’ll aim for a good result,” said Zhang, who currently sits in 81st position on the FedEx Cup points list.

Last season, Zhang became the first Chinese mainland golfer to qualify for the FedEx Cup Playoffs, which has only fueled his desire to attain more success.

Meanwhile, watching last week’s Masters from home has rekindled his ambition to one day make the field at Augusta National. Zhang enjoyed his first major appearance in August when he played in the PGA Championship in San Francisco.

“Playing at Augusta is every player’s dream. Of course I hope I can play the Masters someday,” said Zhang, who finished 78th in the 2019-20 FedEx Cup final standings following three top-10s and seven top-25s.

“After playing on the PGA Tour, I feel I can handle the pressure better and adjust my mentality after suffering a setback. I find that I am able to adjust myself and have a positive mentality and summarize where I didn’t do well after each event and make improvements.

“All the experience has helped me to grow. It is normal to have ups and downs and I think mentality is the key. I am confident I can adjust myself and get my touch back.”

This week’s RMS Classic will be played on two courses´╝Źthe Seaside Course and Plantation Course. Zhang reckons switching between the two will be challenging.

“Both courses are fairly short but have narrow fairways, which need accuracy with the driver and good judgment in the wind,” he said. “Therefore, I have been practicing hitting punch shots. I wasn’t hitting the ball solidly recently, so I’ve made a few changes to my swing and I am trying to adjust.”

Irrespective of how he finishes the year over the next two weeks, Zhang is proud of how he has performed in 2020, a year in which the PGA Tour and all major sports organizations around the world have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

“There were no tournaments for three months on the PGA Tour, and the schedule was changed. All these things never happened before and I couldn’t travel back to China during that time,” said Zhang.

“I was worried about my family and their safety, and when I was self-quarantined, I tried various methods to maintain my daily training routine.

“I missed tournaments so much at that time and when the tournaments came back, I had some ups and downs, and tried to rediscover my touch, adjusted my swing. I am gradually adapting to it.

“I was so pleased to play the (Fed-Ex Cup) playoffs this year. It was a breakthrough for me, and I guess this is a reward for my efforts over the course of the season. I hope to continue to improve and keep my tour card.”

Zhang plans to work hard on his game in December before resuming his 2020-21 campaign at January’s Sony Open in Hawaii.

“I will do my training every day and review the problems I encountered in past events. My training will be adjusted to work on these problems and get better,” he said.

“During the break, I will prepare for the new year, I will also put in more time on physical training and spend more time with my family as I will be busy traveling for tournaments next year.”

PGA Tour contributed to this story