PGA Championship leader Haotong Li did something not done in almost 20 years
Haotong Li’s scorecard was as immaculate as the fairways at TPC Harding Park on Friday. Five birdies. No bogeys. A five-under 65 to give him a two-stroke lead after two rounds at the PGA Championship.
His tee shots were as maculate as the rough. Harding Park has 14 non-par-3s. Li was left or right of the fairway on 10 of them. (He even was short — but in the fairway — on the par-3 8th.)
The bad made the good look really good. According to the PGA of America, Li’s 65 tied Scott Piercy, at the 2013 PGA, for the lowest round in a major in the past 20 years with four or fewer fairways hit.
“Yeah, the last couple days I’ve pretty much hit in the right spot,” Li said after his round. “Even if I miss the green, I still got a chance to up-and-down and also got a lot of good lies in the rough.”
Undoubtedly, given a machete couldn’t get through some of the rough at Harding Park.
Li missed the fairway on holes 1, 4, 6, 9, 10, 12, 14, 15, 16 and 18. (Holes 3, 8, 11 and 17 are par-3s.) He ended up hitting 14 of 18 greens in regulation — one of the greens he missed, on the 7th, was after a drive in the fairway, and another, the 8th, was a par-3. In all, over two rounds, he hit 29 of 36 greens in regulation, tied for first in the field.
Li birdied three of his five holes after hitting it into the rough. On the par-4 1st, he hit into the left rough, hit his approach to about 3 feet and made the putt. On the par-4 9th, he hit into the right rough, hit his approach to about 13 feet and made the putt, On the par-5 10th, he hit into the left rough, hit his second shot to about 74 feet, chipped on and made the putt. Through two rounds, he was fifth in the field in strokes gained: putting.
Hours after his round, Li was still on the driving range, grinding away.
The 65 was excellent. He might have been wondering what it might have been had he hit it straighter.