Chinese golfer Li looking for Mexico magic

Updated 2018-03-02 14:10:04 China Daily

Li Haotong heads down the fairway during the final round en route to winning the 2016 Volvo China Open at Beijing's Topwin Golf & Country Club. (Richard Castka/

Now that he's beaten Rory McIlroy in a head-to-head duel, Li Haotong believes he can beat anyone in the world.

China's rising star gets another crack at taking his next step up the pro golf ladder when he tees up in his first World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship alongside the likes of former major winners Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson on Thursday.

The 22-year-old Li is now ranked No. 37 in the world thanks to an impressive victory over former world No. 1 McIlroy at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic last month.

With this week's million showpiece at Club de Golf Chapultepec featuring 45 of the world's top 50 - including defending champion and current No 1 Dustin Johnson - Li is aiming to leave another big impression, with his eyes ultimately set on the PGA Tour.

"It is so exciting because it's such a big event and hopefully I can play well this week," Li said on Tuesday. "I just want to play my game and enjoy the competition and stay patient. I think that is the key, because it's narrow fairways and you need to play smart.

"Dubai gave me a lot of experience, gave me a lot of confidence. It will help me a lot at the big events now. Actually, I didn't think I could win because Rory is a superstar. I was really, really calm for some reason and felt like I had nothing to lose. If I can beat him, I can beat anyone."

Despite not having a cap sponsor at the current time, Li's stock has risen immensely since launching his career on the PGA Tour Series-China, where he won three times to lift the Order of Merit in 2014.

He garnered more attention by tying for seventh at the 2015 WGC-HSBC Champions on home soil before winning the China Open in 2016 for his first European Tour victory.

Last year, Li made the world sit up and take notice with his third-place finish at the British Open following a stunning final round of 63 at Royal Birkdale.

With exemptions into all of this season's majors, as well as the World Golf Championships and potentially The Players Championship in May, Li hopes to earn his PGA Tour card through the non-members exempt category.

"I don't really know when I will join the Tour, but because I get into four majors and WGC events I think I have big chance to get my card," he said.

Two weeks ago, Li savored a memorable week at the Genesis Open on the PGA Tour where he finished tied for 53rd. He made the first hole-in-one of his career and met idol and tournament host Tiger Woods.

The WGC-Mexico Championship is regulated and organized by the operational committee of the International Federation of PGA Tours. Due to its great importance it annually attracts the top golfers from across the globe, including those from the Asian Tour, European Tour, Japan Golf Tour, PGA Tour, PGA Tour of Australasia and Sunshine Tour.

The other World Golf Championships include the Dell Technologies Match Play (Austin, Texas), the Bridgestone Invitational (Akron, Ohio) and the HSBC Champions (Shanghai).

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