Still young, sometimes inconsistent, but always reckless, Li Haotong is capable of almost anything on the big stage of golf. And on Friday he showed the best he has in the PGA Championship.
Three years after he signed a 63-stroke scorecard in the final round of the British Open, Li hit just four fairways at TPC Harding Park and still managed to finish five-under, 65-strokes, becoming the first player. of China to lead any round of a Major.
The 25-year-old golfer finished a round without bogeys and was eight under par with 132 strokes in two rounds. He has a two-shot advantage with the large group that includes – who else? – Brooks Koepka, the two-time defending champion.
Much further behind was Tiger Woods, who found more fairway but struggled on the greens and ranked 131st in putts among 156 golfers. He came close to missing the cut, until he had a birdie at 18 to stay safe. His card of 72 places him eight shots behind the leader.
Woods was not alone with his problems. Rory McIlroy had four birdies in a row and practically blew his lead with a triple bogey on the 12th hole, making three putts from seven feet once he hit the green. He finished with 69, seven shots behind.
Justin Thomas, the current world number one, also had to bounce back to get through the cut.
Li was in China when the pandemic forced a stop to golf. She came back three weeks ago and missed the cut. They later tied for the 75th group at the World Golf Championship in which 78 golfers participated.
“I didn’t even (think) I could play like this, I didn’t have confidence,” Li admitted. “It probably helped me clear up a bit.”
Koepka was more concerned with a stiff hip than with the constant pain in his left knee and needed his coach to help him stretch three times in the final nine holes. This loosened him enough to finish with 68 hits. It is the fifth time in his last eight Majors, coming into the weekend three strokes behind the leader.
Also in the six-under, 134-stroke group are former PGA Championship champion Jason Day (69), former US Open champion Justin Rose (68), Tommy Fleetwood (64), Daniel Berger (67) and the Frenchman Mike Lorenzo-Vera, who finished the round with a 15-foot bogey for a 68.