Youthful Chinese golfer Li Haotong puts on best show at PGA Championship, takes early lead Friday
SAN FRANCISCO — Still young, often inconsistent, forever fearless, Li Haotong is capable of just about anything on a big stage in golf. He was at his best Friday in the PGA Championship.
Three years after his 63 in the final round of the British Open, Li hit only four fairways at Harding Park and still managed a 5-under 65 that gave him the early lead and set the target for Jason Day, Brooks Koepka and Tiger Woods to chase.
The 25-year-old from China capped a bogey-free round with his eighth straight par and was at 8-under 132, two shots ahead of Tommy Fleetwood of England among the early starters.
Surprised? Depends on the day.
“The last couple days, I’ve been pretty much all hit in the right spot,” Li said.
Getting as much attention was the logo on his hat — WeChat, the Chinese social media company and one of his biggest sponsors. Li was in the spotlight at Harding Park one day after President Donald Trump signed executive orders on a vague ban of WeChat and TikTok in 45 days.
Just as unclear was whether Li was aware of the development.
“I don’t know,” he said. “Who knows?”
Li is a two-time winner on the European Tour, most recently in 2018 at the Dubai Desert Classic when he rallied down the stretch to beat Rory McIlroy by one shot.
He was sensational at Royal Birkdale in 2017 — only five other players have 63 in the final round of a major. But he had a terrible week in his Presidents Cup debut at Royal Melbourne in December. When he first came to America, he made fast friends on the developmental tours with his constant laughter, engaging personality and aggressive play.