Golfer Cao following the Li-der

Updated 2018-05-10 11:09:02 China Daily

Cao Yi admitted to being inspired by China's No 1 Li Haotong as the Beijing-based 27-year-old continues his bid to qualify for the Tour at this week's Haikou Championship, the fourth event of this year's PGA Tour Series-China.

The top five on the money list at the conclusion of the 14-event Tour will punch tickets to next year's Tour.

Li won the inaugural PGA Tour Series-China order of merit in 2014 to become the first Chinese member of the Tour, a route followed two years later by Dou Zecheng and Zhang Xinjun.

Li later earned his status on the international stage with a win at the 2016 Volvo China Open and a third place in last year's British Open, which made him the first Chinese male golfer to break into the world's top 50.

Cao is currently fourth in the order of merit, having won the Chongqing Championship in March. The top-ranked Chinese on the money list said he has benefited from friendly advice from the high-flying Li, who is competing in The Players Championship this week.

"A lot of Chinese players look up to him, including myself. Li has given me a lot of advice over the years and I think that gives me a little bit of an advantage," said Cao, who has played in all four seasons of the PGA Tour Series-China and also competed on the Mackenzie Tour - PGA Tour Canada in 2016-17.

"The level in China has definitely improved a lot. You can see that a lot of Chinese players have a chance and are playing in the last group in the final rounds, which you normally wouldn't see that often. It proves that Chinese players can play."

Cao is among the top local hopes at the Haikou Championship at Sunac Haikou 3KM Golf, where he will play the first two rounds with South Korea's Todd Baek and 2015 No 1 Bryden MacPherson of Australia, who both qualified for the Tour in previous years.

After securing his first pro title in Chongqing, Cao is excited about his chances in Hainan and hopes to put himself in a position to win once again after missing the cut at last week's Changsha Championship.

"I really like the course even though a lot of players say it's kind of tough and kind of narrow, but I think it's pretty straightforward," said Cao, who's just 43,200 yuan behind money leader Jeffrey Kang of the US.

"The course is pretty short and there are not many holes where you have to hit a driver off the tee.

"It's basically like a wedge competition or a putting competition this week, which suits me."

Haikou-based Jin Daxing, 16th on the order of merit, said he has also been inspired by Li's remarkable achievements.

"Li has inspired my will to fight; he is the benchmark for Chinese golf and we are all working towards him," said Jin, who trained and played with Li on China's national team from 2011-15.

"I am full of hope for the Haikou Championship this week. I have adjusted my mental state and my physical fitness, and I am going to try my best to do well."

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