Li Haotong maintains Chinese grip on China Open
20-year-old from Hunan keeps the trophy at home for the second year in a row after a bogey-free 64 for his first European Tour title
Li Haotong kept the China Open title in local hands for the second year in a row by conjuring up his best round of the week, a bogey-free 64, to clinch his maiden European Tour title by three shots on Sunday.
The 20-year-old Hunanese began the final round two shots behind overnight leaders Felipe Aguilar (69) and Lucas Bjerregaard (70) but carded a blemish-free round for a winning total of 22-under at the Topwin Golf and Country Club.
Li became followed in the footsteps of Wu Ashun, who became the third Chinese winner of the country’s oldest professional tournament last year.
He sank his eighth and final birdie on the penultimate hole and was already at 22-under when Aguilar’s tee shot on the 16th found water, the double bogey putting paid to the Chilean’s title hopes.
Li said he was aware of the lead only on the 18th fairway and thanked his caddy for helping him not to get carried away by his aggressive approach.
“When I had my tee-shot, I walked to my second shot there and I was thinking I need to go hybrid to get to the front edge to give me an easy chip to there but my caddy said, ‘Haotong, you’re already three shots in the lead, you’ve just got to lay up and make par to win’. So thanks to him!” he said.
The victory was a big relief for Li, who lost out in a play-off at the Shenzhen International last year and missed the cut at Genzon Golf Club last week.
“The start of this year has given me a lot of hard times,” he said.
“Even though I worked hard I still played badly, especially last week. I worked hard there and couldn’t control my ball.
“I just tried to relax myself and I’m really really happy to hold the trophy here.”
Aguilar finished 19-under, a shot ahead of Dane Bjerregaard, Englishman Richard Bland and German Marcel Siem.