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Li looking forward to tough challenge at Pebble Beach

China Daily | Updated: 2019-06-13 09:02
China's Li Haotong plays a shot from the 16th tee during Monday's practice round for the US Open, which tees off on Thursday in Pebble Beach, California. ANDREW REDINGTON/GETTY IMAGES/AFP

The harder Pebble Beach plays at this week's US Open, the better China's Li Haotong will like it.

The 23-year-old will tee up for his third US Open on Thursday, looking to test his growing credentials on the iconic California course that is poised to severely test the field at the year's third major.

Li finished 68th in his debut at Erin Hills two years ago before orchestrating a commendable tie for 16th at Shinnecock Hills last year in another typical US Open that saw not a single player manage to break par.

With Pebble Beach expected to send scores soaring, Li is prepared to grind it out against the best players in the world, hoping the tough layout will play to his strengths.

"I love to play on tough courses in tough conditions. I'm more comfortable because I know others will play poorly, so if I can be a bit better it will be good for me," said Li, who is ranked 40th in the world.

China's two-time European Tour champion has never tackled Pebble Beach before, having only seen it on TV when the historic venue annually hosts the AT&T Pebble Beach pro-am.

"I'm looking forward to it. I've never been to Pebble Beach before, but I think it's going to be fun. I've heard a lot of stories and I just want to bring my A-game. It's going to be similar preparation for me. More focus, definitely ... but less thinking," said Li.

The Chinese star is firmly in contention for securing special temporary membership on the PGA Tour, which would enable him to receive unlimited sponsor invitations for the remainder of the season in his bid to earn his PGA Tour card through the non-member FedEx Cup points list.

With 243 FedEx Cup points following solid finishes at the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions (tied for 11th), the WGC-Mexico Championship (tied for 19th) and the WGC-Dell Technologies match play (tied for 9th), Li needs another 23 points to attain special temporary membership.

He then needs to match or surpass the 125th-ranked golfer on the final FedEx Cup Points list at the end of the season to secure playing rights on the PGA Tour for 2019-20.

Li needs to finish either in a three-way tie for 35th or a seven-way tie for 34th or better at Pebble Beach.

Li currently sits fifth on the International Team points list in his quest to become China's first player to feature in the Presidents Cup showdown against the United States Team at Australia's Royal Melbourne Golf Club in December.

Ultimately, Li is dreaming of winning major championships, which would be a huge boost for professional golf in China, where the game is already benefiting greatly through the advent of the events like the WGC-HSBC Champions and PGA Tour Series-China, for which he won the inaugural order of merit title in 2014 following three victories that season.

"It's not too big a dream for me to win a major but I have to win a PGA Tour event first," said Li, whose third-place finish at the 2017 British Open remains China's best ever result in a major championship.

Meanwhile, Brooks Koepka, the PGA's reigning Tour Player of the Year, will attempt to become the first man to win three successive US Open titles in 104 years against a lineup that includes Masters champion Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, who triumphed at last week's Canadian Open.


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