China's Li tied for fourth at WGC-HSBC


By Staff

SHANGHAI, China—China’s Hao Tong Li overcame an errant approach shot on No. 9, his 18th hole of the day, and escaped with a bogey that left him tied for fourth with Patrick Reed at the halfway point of the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions. The duo is five shots behind leader Kevin Kisner.

Hao Tong Li shot 69 in the second round. (Michael Lewis/Getty Images)

Friday, Li recorded his second consecutive round in the 60s at Sheshan International Golf Club, a 3-under 69, that bogey on his closing hole—believe it or not—one of the main highlights of his five-birdie, two-bogey round.

Facing a second shot into the par-4 with a stiff wind in his face, Li aimed left to take water on the right side out of play. “I played some fade, but I pushed it into the hazard,” Li said of his approach. He took a penalty and dropped, hitting his fourth shot from 120 yards. Li knocked the approach to five feet and calmly made the bogey putt. He walked off the green smiling at the large crowd assembled to watch him.

“That was a great up-and-down bogey. That was the best finish,” added the 20-year-old, who finished 49th on the 2015 Tour money list.

 Happy with play today. Very good bogey on last hole. I look surprised about my position. But I'm not.#HSBCChampions

          — Haotong Li (@haotong_li) November 6, 2015

With 36 holes in the books, Li is in prime position to record the highest finish by a player from China in PGA TOUR history. In 2010, Wenchong Liang tied for eighth at the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits. However, winning—not a top-10—is what is on Li’s mind. It was at this time a year ago that Li really caught fire and earned his Tour membership, while playing dominant golf. In a 65-day stretch beginning in late September 2014 and concluding at the end of November, Li won three Ping An Bank China Tour – PGA TOUR China Series’ tournaments (and earning Player of the Year honors) and added a win at the OneAsia Tour’s Nanshan Masters. In those four victories, he was 47-under, winning by a cumulative 23 strokes. During that stretch, he also played in 2014 HSBC Champions and shot a Sunday 67, the second-lowest round of the day behind only Henrik Stenson’s 65 on his way to a tie for 35th.

Li admitted he’s getting the same familiar feeling on the greens that he experienced a year ago. He proved it with a quick start to his second round, with two consecutive birdies and three in his first five holes.

“Today I made a lot of birdies. My putter is getting hot, and my short game is still very good,” he explained. “Hopefully I will have a good weekend.”

He may not be the favorite to win, but he will be the crowd favorite as the highest-positioned Chinese player with two rounds to go. Li watched his gallery grow as the day progressed and admitted he saw his name on the leaderboard on “almost every hole,” that it was “very cool.”

He will tee off in the third round’s second-to-last group Saturday, playing with Reed and Bernd Wiesberger.

China’s Xinjun Zhang shot an even-par 72 to go with his 67 in Thursday’s opening round, and he’s tied for 19th with seven players at 5-under. Zecheng Dou has recorded two under-par rounds to start his second appearance in the HSBC Champions. At 3-under, he’s tied for 37th and will play Saturday with Lee Westwood and S.S.P. Chawrasia. Rounding out the PGA TOUR China contingent is Cao Yi, who stumbled to a 6-over 78 Friday after opening 2-under. He’s in 70th place.

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