Haotong Li sets the bar in 2nd round of the PGA Championship
When Haotong Li tapped in his par putt to close out a bogey-free 65 in Friday’s second round of the PGA Championship he had a three-stroke lead over a trio of players still on TPC Harding Park and a fourth – Jason Day – who was still an hour away from teeing off.
Li, 25, is trying to become the first male from China to win a major championship, joining Shanshan Feng, who won the 2012 KPMG Women’s PGA. Li’s 8-under-par 132 set an ambitious bar for others to clear.
Still on the course, all at five under par, when Li finished were a pair of Englishmen -- Tommy Fleetwood and Paul Casey – and Brendon Todd, the 35-year-old American who came out nowhere to win twice on the current PGA Tour season.
Li, who started the day at three under par, began his round on No. 1 and made birdie on each of the first two holes, the fifth and the ninth to go out in 31. He wasn’t as sharp on the incoming nine but every time he got into trouble he found a way out of it.
When he missed the fairway into the thick left rough on No. 12, he gouged it onto the green and saved par. He two-putted from 45 feet on No. 13, and missed the fairway again on No. 14 – this time with no chance to go for the green – but after laying up hit a wedge to 8 feet and saved par.
“When I missed fairways, I got a good lie,” said Li, who put on 15 pounds of muscle over the last year. “I was pretty luck.” As for what he needs to do on the weekend, Li said: “Hit fairways and make putts.”
Li got the worst of the wind on Thursday, playing in the windier afternoon when the greens get firmer, and still managed a 67. On Friday, he gets to watch and see how others handle the conditions – and whether his lead holds up.