China's Li on brink of global glory at WGC-HSBC Champions

 07 Nov 2015 - 17:14

 China's Li on brink of global glory at WGC-HSBC Champions
Li Haotong of China considers a shot during the WGC-HSBC Champions golf tournament in Shanghai on November 7, 2015. AFP


Shanghai: Li Haotong at just 20 years old has a chance to do Sunday something that just a few years ago would have been unthinkable -- win one of golf's biggest events for China.

Li is just one shot behind the leader Kevin Kisner in the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai after a six-under par 66 in the third round on Saturday took him to 15-under par -- two shots ahead of Masters and US Open champion Jordan Spieth, who just happens to be about the best player on the planet right now.

He will likely play with world number eight Dustin Johnson in the final round Sunday as they compete for the massive $1.4 million winner's cheque and the "Old Tom Morris" trophy -- one of the most prestigious outside a major championship. 

The Shanghai-based Li has had the HSBC Champions coursing through his veins from a young age.

The tournament was founded in 2005 when Li was just 10 years old and he participated in its junior golf programme, which enabled him to be inspired by watching legends such as Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy at Sheshan International Golf Club.

"This tournament is so big - it's too big," Li said smiling, as he tried to take in the enormity of what he was achieving in front of thousands of enraptured home-town fans.

"I know that the final day, a lot of people are going to be hitting a lot of birdies. 

"But that's why I thought that my target, my goal of this tournament would be making the top 10, because making the top 10 will already be a highlight and a milestone for my short career."

Li should not be surprised that he can compete with the world's best. In fact, he seems to be inspired all the more when he plays with the game's global superstars.

In April this year, in the European Tour's Shenzhen International in southern China, he teed up alongside world number four and double US Masters champion Bubba Watson for the first three rounds.

He didn't on the fourth day because by then he had outplayed the big-hitting lefty and was leading the event.