Haotong Li birdied three of first five holes Friday at TPC Harding Park and never looked back, surging into a two-shot halfway lead at the PGA Championship following a second round 5-under 65 and putting himself on the doorstep to major golf history.
“The last couple days, I’ve been pretty much all hit in the right spots,” Li said.
“Even (when I) miss the greens I got a chance to (get) up and down. Also a lot of good lies in the rough.”
The 2019 Presidents Cup member arrived in San Francisco this week on the heels of a missed cut at the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide and a tie for 74th last week at the World Golf Championships-FedEx St. Jude Invitational.
“I didn’t even think I could play like this this week, (I’ve) got no confidence,” he said.
“Probably it helped me clear my mind a little bit this week.” Li added consecutive birdies at Nos. 9 and 10 to finish at 8-under par for the day.
He went bogey free Friday and has just one to his name through the first two rounds. But he’s not looking ahead to any thrilling Sunday finish just yet.
“I have no expectations actually,” he said.
“Because the last few months I was home doing nothing so I just want to come here and have fun.”
This is the first time that a mainland Chinese player has led in any round of a major championship.
Chasing history, Li’s best finish in a major was third place at the 2017 Open Championship at Royal Birkdale when he closed with a stunning 63.
He was the 2014 PGA TOUR Series-China Order of Merit champion and is a two-time European Tour winner.
His form heading into the year’s first major due to disruptions to the schedule caused by the coronavirus pandemic has been patchy, which may be a blessing in disguise for the 25-year-old as he has not placed any expectations on himself.
He doesn’t want to think too far ahead although he has a chance of making history.
“I don’t know. Well, still got two rounds left. Long way to go. Just want to play my best. If it happens, it happens,” said Li, who stayed on and practiced for several more hours after his round to prepare for what could be the biggest weekend of his career.
Six players, including defending champion Brooks Koepka and 2018 FedExCup champion Justin Rose, are in second place two back of Li.
Second-Round Notes – Friday, August 7, 2020
Weather: Partly cloudy. High of 63. Wind WSW 10-15 mph, with gusts to 25 mph.
Haotong Li 67-65—132 (-8)
Tommy Fleetwood 70-64—134 (-6)
Jason Day 65-69—134 (-6)
Daniel Berger 67-67—134 (-6)
Brooks Koepka 66-68—134 (-6)
Justin Rose 66-68—134 (-6)
Mike Lorenzo-Vera 66-68—134 (-6)
Other Asian Scores Hideki Matsuyama 70-67 – 137 (-3)
Si Woo Kim 69-68 – 137 (-3)
Cut: 79 players at 1-over 141 from a field of 156 professionals