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Daily Drip

Chinese Golfer Li Haotong Tees Off with Tiger Woods at the Masters

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The product of a time when China was building golf courses at a faster rate than any other country, and perhaps of a long (questionable) heritage of golf in China, the 39th best golfer in the world Li Haotong will be teeing off in the same group as Tiger Woods at the Masters at 11.04am ET on Thursday.

Last year the two tied for 32nd place at the tournament, which isn’t to say there’s any sort of rivalry between them, but rather — you know Tiger, and you need to know Li too.

Raised in southern China’s Hunan province, Li began playing golf at age 10 and officially went pro at just 16. Despite being a native, the Hunan provincial golf team didn’t accept him at age 18, because they felt he was too amateur of a player, so he had to settle for the slightly less reputable Hubei provincial team to the north. The following year, 2014, he won three PGA Tour China tournaments in very mature fashion.

After that the scope of his accomplishments continued to broaden. In 2015 he outscored the seasoned two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson in the third round of the Shenzhen International golf tournament. The next year he extended his reach by taking home his first victory at an elite PGA European Tour tournament, the Volvo China Open.

The next time he won a European Tour tournament, the Omega Dubai Desert Classic last year, he set the tournament record. And now, after taking on the US Open and the Masters in 2018, Li has established himself as the 39th best golfer in the world.

Leading up to the Masters this year he’s already made big headlines. First he fell victim to a controversial new rule at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic (which he won the year before) in an instance the European Tour chief executive called “grossly unfair“. It had to do with “caddie alignment” and the punishment was variously branded as “pedantic” and “ridiculously marginal”.

Li brushed it off though. The next weekend he sent tremors through the golfing world by scoring three eagles on par fours in a single round. If you don’t speak golf, just know that that’s impressive — take a look at this tweet:

If you want to see whether he carries that momentum into the Masters this year, he begins Thursday’s opening round with Tiger Woods and elite Spanish golfer Jon Rahm at 11.04am ET US time and then tees off again at 1.49pm ET on Friday.

Cover photo by Mick De Paola on Unsplash

Andrew Little
    Andrew is a writer from Dallas, Texas, and currently based in Beijing as a RADII contributor. Contact him at andrew@radiichina.com.