Chinese star stunned by sublime 63

Chinese star stunned by sublime 63

MACAU: Li Haotong, once the great hope of Chinese golf, continued to show he is on the road to recovery today after taking the first-round lead in the inaugural International Series Macau presented by Wynn.

Li shot a confidence-building seven-under-par 63 at Macau Golf and Country Club, with LIV Golf League stars Mito Pereira of Chile and Pat Perez from the United States plus Japan sensation Yuta Sugiura next best placed following 64s.

Li had a shocking 2023, missing nearly every cut. However, the 28-year-old has shown a marked improvement this year, including a top-10 finish in the Dubai Desert Classic – the event he won in 2018. He made eight birdies and dropped just one shot today.

“Played really solid, gave myself a lot of birdie chances,” said Li, who has won seven times as a professional, including his national Open in 2016.

“I wasn’t that comfortable with some of the tee shots, but it was a solid day. This is my fourth or fifth time here. This time around the experience is a little bit better and hopefully I can keep playing like this and see how we go.

“I was just hoping to play steady today. No way did I think I would shoot seven under.”

Pereira, who made seven birdies and one bogey, is playing his fourth straight event. Despite admitting to fatigue, his game appears to be as sharp as ever.

“To be honest, I am really tired,” said the 28-year-old, who plays for Torque GC on the LIV Golf League.

“I am ready to go home but it’s the last push. I am trying to give it my best.”

He tied for fourth in the International Series Oman last month before playing LIV Golf events in Jeddah and Hong Kong.

He added: “Pretty solid today, tee to green. Made some good putts, some clutch putts, to keep the momentum going. Really happy with how I played overall.”

4Aces GC star Perez made seven birdies and one bogey, just like Pereira, although five of his birdies came on a brilliant bogey-free back nine.

The 48-year-old says he is reaping the rewards from extensive practice.

He said: “To be honest, I have been working really hard on my game and it’s showing.

“It was nice today, I hit it really good, the wind was blowing. There are some tight tee shots out there, I played great. I just screwed up one hole.

“I have been playing good all week, the course kind of fits my eye. I was excited to play. You need to keep your driver in play here.

“It’s cool being here, it’s mini-Vegas, and I love Vegas.”

Sugiura, perhaps inspired by his compatriot Takahiro Hataji’s memorable win at the New Zealand Open at the beginning of the month, looked set to share the lead with Li but he dropped a shot on his final hole – his only bogey of the day.

He is yet another exciting young golfer to emerge from the Land of the Rising Sun. He won the Dunlop Pheonix as an amateur last year and is in his first year as a professional, and could well be one to watch out for this week. He made it through this year’s Asian Tour Qualifying School.

Scott Hend is in a large group of players who returned 65s.

The Australian being in contention is no surprise. He won the Macau Open here twice, in 2013 and 2015, and is out to make amends for letting the New Zealand Open slip from his grasp two weeks ago. There, he three-putted the 18th to hand Hataji a one-shot victory, and frustratingly miss out on his 11th Asian Tour title.

This week’s US$2 million (RM9.4m) event is the second tournament of The International Series’ 2024 season and the fourth stop on the Asian Tour. – Asian Tour


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