China’s Li leads PGA Championship by two shots

Li Haotong
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Updated 09 August 2020

China’s Li leads PGA Championship by two shots

  • Li is at eight-under 132 heading into the weekend making him the first player from China to lead in a major

SAN FRANCISCO: China No. 1 Li Haotong outshone the big guns to lead at the halfway stage of the PGA Championship, but two-time defending champ Brooks Koepka appears poised to strike.

Li, who is trying to become the first player from China to win a men’s major championship, fired a bogey-free 65 to take a two-shot lead in the first major championship of the pandemic-interrupted season.

Li is at eight-under 132 heading into the weekend making him the first player from China to lead in a major.

Koepka kept his pursuit of a three-peat on track by shooting a hard-fought 68 to join five others in tie for second at six-under at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco.

First round co-leader Jason Day, England’s Tommy Fleetwood, Daniel Berger, England’s Justin Rose, and France’s Mike Lorenzo-Vera are all at six-under 134, two shots back of Li.

Brendon Todd, Paul Casey and Cameron Champ are another shot back at five under.

Li, who turned 25 on Monday, is hoping his solid play this week in San Francisco will revive the form that catapulted him to the upper echelons of golf with a third-place finish at the 2017 British Open.

He drained five birdies, including four on the front nine, making him the first player from China to hold a lead in a major championship. He has just one bogey through 36 holes.

“The last couple of days I’ve been pretty much all hitting in the right spot,” said Li.

“Even if I miss the green, I still got a chance for an up-and-down.”

Li would also be just the second Asian player to win a major, joining South Korea’s Yang Yong-eun, who won the 2009 PGA Championship.

In 2012, Feng Shanshan made history by becoming the first player from China to win a major when she captured the Women’s PGA Championship.

Asked what it is going to take for him to become the first Chinese male to do it, Li said he needs to drive the ball straight.

“Well, I still got two rounds left. A long way to go. I just want to play my best. If it happens, it happens,” said Li, who has two wins on the European Tour.

“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.”

Li got off to a hot start by making birdie on his first two holes, including a long 22-foot putt on the par-four number two.

On the first hole, Li blasted a 90-yard approach shot out of the rough to just three feet and then tapped in for a birdie.

He also had back-to-back birdies at the turn making putts of 12 feet on No. 9 and three feet on No. 10 for his only birdie on a par-five.

The conditions were challenging at times on Friday morning as the sun finally came out after several days of marine fog, but the winds also starting whipping around the course.

Koepka closed out his round with a birdie on No. 18 that was set up by a magical bunker shot.

“Incredible. That ball was a foot above my feet,” he said.

Koepka is bidding to become the first player to win the same major three consecutive times since Peter Thomson won The Open Championship from 1954-56.

“I like my position. I am excited for the weekend,” Koepka said.

Koepka had to seek treatment from the trainer on the 12th hole because of a sore hip but said it is not a big deal. “It is fine. It was just tight,” he said.

France’s Lorenzo-Vera is tied for second after catching fire on the back nine with three straight birdies beginning at the second hole (his 11th of the day.)

Lorenzo-Vera had a chance to take solo second but he made bogey on his final hole.

The 44-year-old Woods just made the cut by shooting a two-over 72 for an even-par 140.

Woods had two birdies on the back nine but finished with four bogeys in the round as he struggled with his new putter.

His playing partner, Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy, had a roller coaster round but also got into the weekend.

McIlroy made four birdies in a row starting at the seventh hole but then lost the momentum with a triple bogey on the par-four 12th.

McIlroy stepped up to the tee box on 12 at three under but walked off the green at even par after needing three putts.

McIlroy regrouped with a birdie on 16 and finished with one under 69. He is tied for 31st, seven strokes adrift of Li.

Injured Serena withdraws from French Open; Nadal cruises

Updated 55 min 29 sec ago

Injured Serena withdraws from French Open; Nadal cruises

  • The 39-year-old Williams, a three-time winner at Roland Garros, pulled out ahead of her second round match

PARIS: Serena Williams suffered another blow in her bid for a 24th Grand Slam title as the American withdrew from the French Open on Wednesday with an Achilles injury, while 12-time champion Rafael Nadal raced into the third round.

The 39-year-old Williams, a three-time winner at Roland Garros, pulled out ahead of her second round match against Tsvetana Pironkova citing the injury that prompted her to skip the Rome tuneup event.

“The Achilles didn't have enough time to heal after the US Open,” said Williams, who admitted last week she was not fully fit after her run to the semifinals in New York.

“I'm struggling to walk, so that's kind of a telltale sign that I should try to recover.”

The injury likely means she will miss the rest of 2020, leaving the Australian Open in 2021 as her next chance to equal Margaret Court's all-time majors record.

Nadal looked in ominous form as he stepped up his pursuit of Roger Federer's 20 major titles with a crushing win over 236th-ranked American Mackenzie McDonald.

The Spaniard batted aside McDonald 6-1, 6-0, 6-3 in exactly 100 minutes and will meet Japan's Kei Nishikori or Stefano Travaglia of Italy for a spot in the last 16.

“The aim was to play as well as possible. I'm very happy. I have another difficult match next,” said Nadal. The 34-year-old needs one more major to pull level with long-time rival Federer and owns an astonishing 95-2 record in Paris going back to his triumph on debut in 2005.

US Open champion Dominic Thiem swept into the third round with a 6-1, 6-3, 7-6 (8/6) victory over American qualifier Jack Sock, saving three set points to close out the match.

The Austrian third seed will play Norway's Casper Ruud, seeded 28th, or American Tommy Paul for a place in the last 16.

“I'm very happy with my game in the first two rounds. It was not an easy draw at all and I'm very happy not to drop a set,” said Thiem, who defeated 2014 US Open winner Marin Cilic in round one.

Dutch fifth seed Kiki Bertens had to be taken off court in a wheelchair after a fiery win over former finalist Sara Errani.

Bertens triumphed 7-6 (7/5), 3-6, 9-7 in a three-hour 11-minute clash which left her in cramps and Italian Errani screaming an obscenity as she left the court.

"After one hour, she's injured but then she's running around like never before," said Errani.

"She leaves the court in a chair and now she's in the locker room and eating in the restaurant, perfect. She exaggerated."

Bertens is due to meet Katerina Siniakova next while Elina Svitolina overcame Mexican qualifier Renata Zarazua 6-3, 0-6, 6-2.

The Ukrainian third seed is coming off a title at Strasbourg last week and will next play Russian 27th seed Ekaterina Alexandrova, but was briefly taken aback by a sonic boom.

Stan Wawrinka, the 2015 French Open winner, followed up his demolition of Andy Murray with a 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 defeat of Germany's Dominik Koepfer.

Sebastian Korda, the son of 1992 Roland Garros runner-up and 1998 Australian Open champion Petr Korda, also progressed after a four-sets victory over fellow American John Isner.