Haotong Li and the PGA Tour China Are Ready For International Spotlight

Haotong Li of China plays a shot during the first round of the Shenzhen International at Genzon Golf Club on April 20, 2017 in Shenzhen, China. Credit: Zhong Zhi / Getty Images

Haotong Li may not yet be a household name, even with golf fans. But earlier this summer he made history. At Erin Hills, Li became the first male player from mainland China to make the cut in a US Open — an impressive feather for the 21-year-old’s cap. In his brief career, Li has racked up 3 wins on the PGA Tour China, which netted him a spot on the US-based Web.com Tour. Last year he established himself as a full-time player on the European Tour and nabbed a win at his home open (The Volvo China Open.) We caught up with Li earlier this week after he arrived at Royal Birkdale to chat about the state of his game, golf in China and how he hopes to get lucky at the Open Championship.

This year’s Open Championship will be your first. How’s your game, and what do you need to do to win?

The game is in decent shape. I’ve played six events in a row coming into this week and have been playing really good golf. I made sure to take a day off today (Monday of Open week) so that I’m feeling fresh going into the tournament.

In order to be in contention it’s really important that I conserve energy. I’ll do a few workouts but it’s just about starting the tournament with energy.

China is a country that is relatively new to golf. Can you describe the golf culture there and tell us how it has changed since you took up the game?

The culture has remained fairly similar between when I began playing and now. In China the golf courses are largely private, rather than public. In terms of growing the game there will need to be more public courses, for sure.

Many athletes believe very deeply in luck and streaks — are you superstitious? Do you have a good luck charm?

Yes, I do have some superstitions. I don’t let anyone touch my putter! Also I never play balls with No. 8 or No. 4. I try to play ball No. 6 as much as possible. There will be lots of sixes in the bag this week!

What has been the most important moment in your career so far?

The 2016 Volvo China Open, for sure. It was the biggest tournament win of my career.

What tournament do you want to win the most?

Definitely the Masters. I’d love a Green Jacket… then a Claret Jug!

I understand you have started to collect cars. What is your favorite at the moment?

At the moment I really love the Mercedes-AMG G63 and also the GLE450. I’ve got both of them in white!

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

To always be patient. It’s key in golf.

If you could only play one more round of golf, where would you play and with whom would you play it?

I’d play Augusta National with Tiger, Rory and Justin Rose. It would be incredible!