Haotong Li makes 4 eagles to reach Saudi co-lead, position self for redemption

Getty Images

Haotong Li makes 4 eagles to reach Saudi co-lead, position self for redemption

Euro Tour

Haotong Li makes 4 eagles to reach Saudi co-lead, position self for redemption

By

Haotong Li should be gaining a lot of fans for his refreshing approach to golf.

On a day when Sergio Garcia disrespected the game and probably lost a lot of fans, Li’s honesty after the third round of the $3.5 million Saudi International was more than welcome. If any player has a reason to moan about golf’s inherent unfairness, it’s the man who picked up a controversial $98,000, two-shot penalty in the final round of last week’s Omega Dubai Desert Classic.

Li powered his way to the top of this week’s leaderboard with an 8-under 62 that included four eagles. He’s tied with Dustin Johnson on 16 under after the World No. 3 returned a 5-under 65.

Incredibly, three of Li’s four eagles came on par-4 holes – the first, 10th, 17th and 18th holes. The 18th is the only par 5 in that quartet. He also made birdies on the fourth and seventh holes, while dropping two shots on the par-4 6th hole.

Cue a refreshingly honest answer to how did you play?

“Very lucky today,” the 23-year-old Chinese player said. “Those eagles, especially the last couple of shots, were really solid but except for that, honestly, my play, wasn’t that good.

“I did make a lot of par putts.”

His approach shot to the first hole found the bottom of the cup to start his round with a bang, but Li admitted it was a fortunate stroke.

“If it didn’t go in the hole, it could have been off the green. It’s a very lucky eagle over there.

“At the tenth, that’s what I wanted to play, that way, but I felt like I pushed it a little bit. I got a lucky bounce, kicked it left and went in the hole, which is very lucky, too.”

Li has not complained about last week’s two-shot penalty, despite criticism of the decision from all corners of the golf world.

The two-time European Tour winner won’t be fazed by playing with Johnson in the final round. Li went head to head with Rory McIlroy 12 months ago to win the Dubai Desert Classic.

Johnson’s 65 featured a bogey and six birdies, including four straight from the ninth hole.

“I thought I played well,” Johnson said. “I probably played just as well as I did yesterday.

“I gave myself a lot of opportunities and made a lot of good putts. Just holed a few more yesterday than I did today, is the only difference.

“For me, I just go out and play like I’ve been playing and hopefully can roll in a few more putts and see what I can do.

“Haotong is a good player. He’s obviously playing well right now. I think it’s going to be kind of a tough match against him tomorrow for the most part, but I’m looking forward to it.”

Johnson is the favorite, but many golf fans will be rooting for Li to make up for what they see as the gross injustice he suffered last week.

Latest

More Golfweek
Home