5 things to know about PGA Championship leader Haotong Li

haotong li swings golf club

Haotong Li is firmly in contention heading into the weekend at the PGA Championship.

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Haotong Li has launched himself firmly into the conversation on Friday at the PGA Championship. The 25-year-old PGA Tour pro currently holds a three-shot lead on the field thanks to a blistering second round performance at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco, Calif.

Here are five things to know about Li heading into the weekend at golf’s first major championship.

1) He’s barely played in the U.S. this year, and when he has, things haven’t gone well

Li has logged only two starts in the United States since the beginning of the PGA Tour season last November. What’s more? Both starts have come in the last month and neither has looked particularly pretty.

In Li’s first start at the Memorial Tournament in mid-July, he shot 74-77 en route to a missed cut. While at last week’s WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational, he finished third-to-last in the field, following a Thursday 67 with rounds of 73-74-75.

2) He’s struggled outside the U.S., too

While he’s only had a few bites at the apple in the United States in 2020, Li’s game hasn’t looked very good when he’s played abroad. In six European Tour starts, Haotong has managed just one top-20 finish against three missed cuts.

His best performances over the last 12 months came in events played in China. Li finished second and T-24 in a pair of starts in his home country (the China Tour Championship and WGC-HSBC Champions).

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3) He’s never won on the PGA Tour

That’s right, Haotong Li is attempting to join rarified air by winning a major championship before notching a PGA Tour win. Li has six career wins internationally, most recently the European Tour’s 2018 Omega Dubai Classic.

4) Twice in 2019, he found himself on the wrong end of TERRIBLE rules luck

Li’s first bad break came at the Omega Dubai Classic, where the defending champion was assessed a two-stroke penalty on a little-known rule involving his caddie.

According to a rules official, Li’s caddie was too close to his rear as he drained a three-foot birdie to close out his final round. The penalty moved him from T-3 to T-12, and cost him $100,000 in prize money.

Then, at the President’s Cup in December, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler forced Li to replay a shot from the trees after swinging out of order. After a clean exit on his erroneous turn, Li ricocheted his replay off a tree branch and gave Thomas and Fowler an easy win on the hole. The U.S. would go on to win the match 3&2 (but Li earned back some brownie points with an epic moment with Ernie Els).

5) He’s played well in majors before

Haotong might not have a ton of success in his young PGA Tour career, but he’s already nabbed strong major championship performances at a pair of iconic venues.

In 2017, Li finished solo 3rd at the Open Championship, six strokes back of Jordan Spieth at Royal Birkdale. Then the next year, he notched a T-16 finish at the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills.

TPC Harding Park might not hold the same cache as the aforementioned course names, but we’re guessing Li wouldn’t mind if he manages a major championship breakthrough.

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