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.

Murray to the rescue as Nuggets hold of Lakers

Updated 23 September 2020

Murray to the rescue as Nuggets hold of Lakers

  • The 23-year-old Canadian’s three-pointer from 26 feet gave Denver a seven-point advantage at 106-99

ORLANDO: Jamal Murray scored 28 points as the Denver Nuggets held off a ferocious late fightback from the Los Angeles Lakers to roar back into contention in the Western Conference finals series on Tuesday.

Murray nailed two crucial late three-pointers in the closing minutes as Denver held on for a 114-106 victory in game three to reduce the Lakers’ lead to 2-1 in the best-of-seven series.

But the Nuggets — who looked in complete control for long periods of the contest — were given a mighty scare by the Lakers in a thrilling fourth quarter battle.

The Lakers had trailed by 20 points with just over 10 minutes remaining but whittled away the Denver lead to just three points with 3min 53sec left on the clock in Orlando.

But just as it looked as if LeBron James and Anthony Davis were poised to complete a remarkable comeback, Murray regrouped to take the game away from the Lakers.

The 23-year-old Canadian’s three-pointer from 26 feet gave Denver a seven-point advantage at 106-99 and he then provided the assist for Paul Millsap to make it 108-99.

With less than a minute on the clock, Murray struck the dagger blow with a 29-foot three-point jumpshot to make it 111-99 and effectively seal victory.

Denver coach Michael Malone said his team — who had suffered an agonizing buzzer-beater defeat in game two on Sunday — were determined not to go 3-0 down in the series.

The Nuggets have already overturned 3-1 series deficits en route to the Western Conference finals.

“I had no doubt we were going to show up tonight,” Malone said.

“We have won six straight elimination games. Everybody always has us packing our bags and leaving, but we’re not ready to go. They’re a very resilient group and they have proved that time and time again.”

Asked about his late flourish, Murray said he had set out to lead by example.

“That’s my whole energy, my whole approach to the game, not getting down if I miss a couple of shots,” Murray said.

“I’m just trying to be aggressive ... but the most important part is the energy I bring when I’m talking to my team-mates, being a vocal leader, getting up and down and pushing everybody so they tend to follow. I just wanted to see them have a lot of fun today.”

The Lakers, meanwhile, were left reflecting on an uneven display which ultimately left James and Davis with too much to do.

James led the scoring with a triple double comprised of 30 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists, with six turnovers. Davis had 27 points, with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (12) and Kyle Kuzma (11) the only other Lakers players to crack double figures.

Murray, who also had 12 assists, was backed with 26 points from Jerami Grant while Nikola Jokic weighed in with 22 points, 10 rebounds and five assists.

“You put yourself in an 18-point hole, it’s tough to climb out of that,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said.

“I thought Denver played with great energy throughout the game. We didn’t match it early, we matched it late. They’re a great basketball team so credit it to them for the win. They played a really good basketball game.

“We were not as sharp as we could have been on both ends of the floor. We were playing at a high level, but were a little bit off in the first half.

“But I liked the spirit that the guys competed with down the stretch to try and make it a game.”