Can Li Haotong change golf? – China star shoots brilliant 63 in final round of British Open

Praise for the youngster after he surges up the leaderboard with a round just one shy of the record for a major

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 23 July, 2017, 11:51pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 23 July, 2017, 11:58pm

Chinese prodigy Li Haotong caused a sensation in the British Open on Sunday as he shot a seven-under par 63 in his final round at Royal Birkdale to finish on six under par overall – with American golf commentator Brandel Chamblee saying in a tweet that a Li victory “would change golf”.

Li, 21, started the day at +1 for the championship and parred his first seven holes before a remarkable run of seven birdies and four pars in his remaining 11 holes.

It is just the 32nd round of 63 ever recorded in a major championship and just the 11th achieved at a British Open.

The score was the all-time low in a major until Saturday, when South Africa’s Branden Grace broke new ground with an unprecedented 62 in the third round.

Playing with South Africa’s Ernie Els, a two-time former British Open winner, Li sealed his superb effort with an immaculate approach shot to within five feet of the pin on 18, leaving an easy birdie putt.

He made birdie at each of his last four holes.

The round propelled Li to third on the leaderboard and suddenly into contention for the claret jug on his Open debut with leading duo Jordan Spieth and Matt Kuchar both losing ground early in their rounds.

Earlier in the day he had been listed as a 1000/1 shot by some bookmakers to win the championship.

“He was playing good and making putts. And he had a nice attitude. And I could see he wasn’t backing off,” said his playing partner Els, who shot 74 to end on +5.

“You see some guys get a little bit scared, but he kept going. So it was really special to see. The shot on 18 was just phenomenal.”

Li had gone 69-73-69 through his first three rounds, solid if unspectacular form.

But he made history at the US Open last month at Erin Hills when he became the first player from mainland China to make the cut of a major.

He ended up shooting 82 and 84 over the weekend to finish last among the players to make the cut, but he also won the China Open last year when still just 20 and represented his country at the Olympics in Rio.

Royal Birkdale has seen great performances from Asian golfers before at the British Open.

In 1971, Taiwan’s Lu Liang-Huan, sporting a pork pie hat wherever he went, finished second to Lee Trevino, of the United States, missing out on the claret jug by a single stroke.