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China’s Li looking forward to tough Pebble Beach test

Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The harder Pebble Beach Golf Links plays during this week’s U.S. Open, the better it’ll be for him … says China’s Li Haotong. The rising star tees up for his third U.S. Open on Thursday, looking to test his growing credentials once again at the iconic venue which is poised to severely test the field in the year’s third Major.

Li, 23, finished 68th in his debut at Erin Hills two years ago before coming in a commendable T16 at Shinnecock Hills last year following another typical U.S. Open which did not see a single player breaking par by the end of the week.

With Pebble Beach tipped to send scores soaring, Li is prepared to grind it out against the best players in the world, saying a tough course set-up could be an advantage for him.

“I love to play on tough golf courses and tough conditions. I feel when I play in those conditions, I’m more comfortable as I know others will play bad and if I can play a bit better, it will be good for me,” said Li, who is ranked 40th in the world.

Li, a two-time European Tour winner, has not played at Pebble Beach previously, watching it only on TV as the historic venue annually hosts the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am on the PGA Tour.

“I’m looking forward to it. It’s good especially playing in a Major. I’ve never been to Pebble Beach before … I think it’s going to be fun. I’ve heard a lot of stories and I just want to bring my A-game. It’s going to be similar preparation for me, more focus definitely but less thinking,” said the slender Chinese.

He remains within touching reach of securing Special Temporary Membership (STM) on the PGA Tour which will enable him to receive unlimited sponsor invitations for the remainder of the season in his bid to earn his tour card through the Non-Member FedExCup Points List.

Currently with 243 FedExCup points following solid finishes at the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions (T11), WGC-Mexico Championship (T19) and WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play (T9), Li needs to secure another 23 points to attain STM, and subsequently needs to match or surpass the 125th ranked golfer on the final FedExCup Points List at the end of the 2018-19 season to earn playing rights on the PGA Tour for 2019-20. He needs to finish either in a three-way tie for 35th or a seven-way tie for 34th or better this week.

Li is also currently fifth on the International Team points list in his hopes to become China’s first player to feature in the Presidents Cup to face the United States Team at Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Australia this December.

Ultimately, Li is dreaming of winning Major championships which he knows will be a boon for professional golf in China. The game in his home country is already benefiting greatly through the advent of the events like the WGC-HSBC Champions and PGA Tour Series-China which he won the inaugural Order of Merit title in 2014 following three victories that season.

“It’s not too far for me to win a Major but I have to win a PGA Tour event first,” he said.

“It’s going to be amazing for our country, all our golfers and for me,” added Li, whose third place at The Open Championship in 2017 remains as China’s best finish in a major championship.

Reigning PGA Tout Player of the Year, Brooks Koepka, will attempt to become the first man to win three successive U.S. Open titles in 104 years against a line-up which includes Masters Tournament winner Tiger Woods and last week’s RBC Canadian Open champion Rory McIlroy.

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