Danny Lee claims share of second in China
Nicolas Colsaerts sets course record to win
New Zealand golfer Danny Lee took a big step in wrapping-up his European Tour card for next season after finishing joint runner-up in the China Open in Chengdu.
Lee produced a final round 65 to share second place on 20-under par with Ireland's Peter Lawrie (68), Dane Soren Kjeldsen (66) and Spain's Pablo Martin (63).
Nicolas Colsaerts became only the second Belguim-born player to win in the history of the European Tour, capturing the event by four strokes with a last round 66 for a 24-under par total on the Luxehills International course.
Colsaerts, 28, ended a 10-year victory drought stretched over 181 tournaments with the win.
Lee's effort is his best result since capturing the 2009 Johnnie Walker Classic in Perth while still an amateur.
The Rotorua golfer's prior best European Tour finish as a professional was a share of 10th place, also in 2009 at the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles in Scotland.
This year marks the last of Lee's two-year Tour exemption in winning in Australia, so his result in China after having made the cut in three of five prior events in 2011, could not have come at a better time.
Lee's 140,083 euro ($NZ254,300) prize cheque has seen him move to 46th position the Race to Dubai money list with total earnings this year of 163,864 euro and well inside the top 115 who at season end will retain automatic Tour membership for 2012.
Lee commenced the last round in China five strokes behind Colsaerts, and while the 20-year old New Zealander started his last round with five straight pars, he made big amends with five birdies over his closing six holes.
In fact, Lee birdied four holes in succession from the 13th before finishing at 20-under par with a birdie at the last.
"I am very happy with my result this week," he said.
"But it really could have been better as I was playing good all week until the last hole on Saturday when I duffed my rescue club into the water on 18 and made a double bogey.
"That really hurt, particularly if you want to win, but I guess it's all part of the learning process."
"This has to be the best event I played as a professional. I still haven't played as well as I did in winning in Perth, but distance off the tee has improved while there is more consistency in my game and my course management is better."
Lee said he had come to China hoping for a top five finish, and was happy to have achieved that.
Lee is remaining in the Far East to contest this week's Ballantine's Championship in Seoul, Korea and he says he's looking forward to plenty of family and friends support.
Michael Henry and Steve Alker shared 43rd place on 10-under par after respective last rounds of 73 and 74.
While Michael Campbell earned a third straight pay cheque despite a poor third round of 75 to end with a 69 for a share of 62nd place on six under par.
Lee, Campbell and Auckland's Mark Brown will be the only New Zealand interest competing in Seoul.