China number one Li Haotong only has one thing on his mind at Hong Kong Open – victory
Dust barely settles on the Race To Dubai and new European Tour season opens at Hong Kong Golf Club this week
China number one Li Haotong won €1.6 million (HK$14.6 million) on the European Tour this year but it was still tinged with disappointment after he failed to claim a title.
The 22-year-old from Hunan province hopes to put that right at this week’s UBS Hong Kong Open, which opens the new European Tour season.
“I’m a little disappointed I haven’t won this year, especially as I’ve had a couple of very good chances,” said Li. “It would have been good to have had just one victory.”
Those chances included a third place in the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale in July, the highest finish in a major by any Chinese male player, and four other top-10 finishes.
Li, the world number 58, finished 17th in the Race To Dubai behind Tommy Fleetwood (world number 19) and Justin Rose (world number six), both of whom will be at Fanling for the Hong Kong Open starting on Thursday.
Li will be making his second appearance at Hong Kong Golf Club after a forgettable first attempt two years ago.
“I played in the Hong Kong Open in 2015 but I missed the cut, so I plan to play a lot better this time,” said Li, who won his national Open, the Volvo China Open in 2015.“The course is fairly short but tricky so it’s quite challenging.”
Li rounded out his 2017 European Tour season ranked 17th after a 13th-place finish worth €110,500 in the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai on Sunday.
Two weeks ago at Sun City in South Africa, the long-hitting Chinese player got close to the winner’s circle after a best-of-the-week score of 64 on Sunday saw him finish fourth behind local favourite Brandon Grace.
Li said he was in regular contact with fellow Chinese players Zhang Xinjun and Dou Zecheng, both of whom now play on the US PGA Tour.
“I keep in touch with Zhang and Dou, they’re both good guys and they’re doing really well in America. I’m very happy for them,” Li said.
When asked if he sees himself joining them, Li said he would prefer to divide his schedule.
“Actually, I would love to play both the European Tour and the US PGA Tour,” he said. “I’m probably not quite ready yet.”
Li said he also communicated regularly with women’s world number one Feng Shanshan, but added somewhat tongue-in-cheek: “I’ve stayed out of the way since she became number one. She’s a superstar now.”
Asked when the first male Chinese player would achieve world number one status Li smiled and replied: “I’ll try my best.”