China’s Li gets taste of tougher Augusta National

Li Haotong of China finished in third place at the British Open in 2017, but faces a new challenge from August National
AFP

Augusta (United States) (AFP) – A day after a dream start to his debut Masters, China’s Li Haotong got a wake-up call from Augusta National.

The 22-year-old, who started Friday’s second round three shots off the lead after a 3-under par 69, had two double bogeys and three bogeys in a 4-over par 76 that left him 1-over for the tournament on 145.

He again shined on the back nine, which he opened with a chip-in for birdie at the par-4 10th.

Li, who impressively birdied Augusta’s formidable Amen Corner trio of holes — 11, 12 and 13 — on Thursday, gave himself a tap-in par at the par-5 11th and fired at the flag at the par-three 12th for a tap-in birdie.

His approach at the 10th came up short, caught the front edge and rolled “like 30 yards back,” Li said.

“I was quite lucky,” he said of his chip in from there. “One bounce and it bounced in.”

From his spot at the base of the slope he couldn’t see it go in, but as he walked toward the green and realized the chip had dropped he flung his club into the air in celebration.

He would add one more bogey at 13 and a birdie at the par-three 16th coming in.

Li said he didn’t have any trouble shaking off a tough front nine that saw him plummet down the leaderboard after bogeys at four and five and double bogeys at seven and nine.

“I think it’s the course being tougher,” said Li, who punched his Masters ticket with a third-place finish at the British Open last year, where he fired a final-round 63.

Earlier this season, he out-dueled Rory McIlroy to win the Dubai Desert Classic and become the first Chinese man to break into the top 50 in the world golf rankings.

“I played all right, actually, but I had a couple doubles, just seemed to be in the wrong position, and it’s kind of like no shot.

“So I just take that and that was what happened. the back nine was better.”

All in all, Li said, his position heading into the weekend was better than he expected.

“Actually, I just wanted to make the cut first because you never know here what can happen,” he said.

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