Li leads but major champs in hot pursuit at US PGA

Haotong Li

AS IT STANDS  -8 Haotong Li; -6 Mike Lorenzo-Vera, Tommy Fleetwood, Daniel Berger, Brooks Koepka, Justin Rose, Jason Day; -5  Cameron Champ, Paul Casey, Brendon Todd OTHERS  -4 Dustin Johnson; -2 Bryson DeChambeau; -1 Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm; E Tiger Woods, Robert MacIntyre

Haotong Li takes a two-shot into the weekend after a blistering five-under 65 early on day two of the US PGA Championship.

The 25-year-old from China leads the way on eight-under-par at TPC Harding Park San Francisco after a blemish-free second round.

Two-time European Tour winner Li is making just his 12th major start and has only one top-ten finish to his name in the game’s marquee events.

However, he is the man everybody else is looking up at after 36 holes of the year’s first major.

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The back-to-back defending champion Brooks Koepka is among a throng of players two shots adrift of Li on six-under. That group also includes the 2015 champion Jason Day, the 2013 US Open champion Justin Rose and last year’s Open Championship runner-up Tommy Fleetwood.

Big-hitting Cameron Champ is on five-under alongside Paul Casey, with Dustin Johnson also nicely positioned to make a weekend move on four-under.

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Li takes the lead

With only one bogey on his card through 36 holes, Li is off to a terrific start in what is only his fourth US PGA Championship.

Should he win, he would become the first Chinese male golfer and only the second Asian male to win a major championship, following in the footsteps of South Korean Y.E. Yang, who memorably pipped Tiger Woods to the US PGA in 2009.

However, he is determined not to let the prospect of creating history weigh him down.

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“We’ve still got two rounds left,” he said. “Long way to go. Just want to play my best. If it happens, it happens.”

Li, who returned the course on Friday afternoon after his round for a lengthy (and widely-criticised) range session, added that he had “no expectations” coming into this week having spent most of lockdown back home in China.

“I just want to have fun out here,” he said. “I think the key on this course, you just need to hit as many fairways as you can, and especially putting and short game is quite important.”

Tiger toils in tough conditions

After posting his best opening round at a major championship since the 2012 Open Championship, Tiger Woods found the going much tougher on a blustering second day.

The 15-time major champion, looking to win the Wanamaker trophy for a record-equalling fifth time, never quite got going in his second round and ultimately posted a two-over 72 to sit level for the championship.

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Even so, the Masters champion is confident he can make up the eight shots by which he currently trails Li and get himself into the mix over the weekend.

“I drove it great,” said the 44-year-old. “Missed a few irons on the short side, didn't get up-and-down, and I really struggled with getting the speed of the greens today. They looked faster than what they were putting.

“[But] if I can get myself in position where like I did today off the tee, I think I can have a really good weekend.”

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