China’s Haotong Li walked away from the PGA Championship on Sunday with renewed self-belief that he can triumph on golf’s biggest stage soon.
The 25-year-old enjoyed a small slice of history when he became the first mainland Chinese golfer to lead in any round of a major championship by grabbing the halfway lead at TPC Harding Park on Friday but weekend rounds of 73 and 69 saw him end a memorable week in joint 17th position.
American rising star Collin Morikawa claimed his first major victory and third PGA TOUR title with a thrilling two-shot triumph following a spectacular final round 64. He chipped in for birdie on 14 and eagled the par 4, 16th hole after producing one of the best shots ever seen in a major championship with a drive that landed seven feet of the hole.
He joined Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy by winning the event at age 23 following a winning total of 13-under 267 in what was only his 29th career PGA TOUR star.
Li believes the experience gained at TPC Harding Park will serve him well as he continues his pursuit for success at the highest level. He finished seven shots behind Morikawa.
“Well, I just need to be more consistent, and physically, as well. I think if I play my best, I can beat them. Just want to try to be in the (same) level,” said Li, whose best finish in a major championship remains a third place finish at the 2017 Open Championship.
After an early bogey on the second hole, the tenacious Chinese fought back with birdies on Hole Nos. 5, 7, 10 and 14 to move into the top-10 of the leaderboard. His second birdie of the round was a massive conversion from 41 feet. Chasing a closing birdie, Li made an error with his drive and dropped a costly double bogey to settle for a 1-under round.
A member of the International Team at the Presidents Cup last year, Li began the week by signing for rounds of 67 and 65 to take the lead midway through the year’s first major before enduring a tough third day with two birdies, three bogeys and one double bogey.
He conceded the pressure of leading a major championship got to him but vowed to learn from the experience. “Yesterday (Saturday) was very stressful. Since I wake up … since I’ve never been there before. I just felt super tired, not because of practice, but today I felt like everything is released. I played really well until 16, missed a short birdie putt, and 18, I just want to go aggressive, try to make a birdie, and went a little bit left (into a penalty area). Yeah, it’s great experience.”
Korea’s Si Woo Kim closed out his week at TPC Harding Park with a 68 to finish as the best Asian in a share of 13th position, matching his career best finish in a major (T13, 2017 U.S. Open). The result pushed him up 15 places to 121st position on the FedExCup point list, with the top-125 qualifying for the FedExCup Playoffs after this week’s Wyndham Championship.
Kim, the 2017 PLAYERS Championship winner, made bogeys on Hole Nos. 1 and 18 but picked up shots on Hole Nos. 2, 7, 10 and 15 to record his third top-20 finish since the Return to Golf in June.