China’s Li Haotong is anxious to see how his golf game will stand up against the stars from the PGA Tour when he makes his long-awaited return to golf in this week’s Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide and World Golf Championships-FedEx St Jude Invitational later this month.
It has been nearly four months since the 24-year-old Chinese star last struck an official golf shot before the coronavirus pandemic forced all major tours around the world to suspend competition. During the break, he focused on getting stronger and sharper in his game and hopes to reap the fruit of his labour over the next few weeks.
“I’m very excited and can’t wait to get back to the game. It’s been more than three months since I left the tour and I really miss everything on the course,” said Li, who is exempted into Muirfield Village this week and TPC Southwind later this month by virtue of being a member of the 2019 Presidents Cup International Team. “To be honest, I was imagining it’s me on the tee or on the green while watching the video and highlights on TV (when the PGA Tour resumed play).”
The slender Li, who was the 2014 Order of Merit winner on PGA Tour Series China and a regular on the European Tour where he has won twice, placed T37 in the Memorial Tournament and T20 in the WGC event last season.
A second appearance at the Memorial, which is hosted by golf legend Jack Nicklaus, is a mouth-watering prospect as 82-time PGA Tour winner Tiger Woods will also be making his first competitive appearance since the break.
“The course is very good for me and it’s a big honour to play in Jack Nicklaus’ tournament,” said Li. “Jack is one of the legends of golf and I’ve been playing on a course designed by him (Lake Malaren Golf Club, Shanghai) since my childhood. I’m looking forward to a better result in this event. The line-up will be strong and challenging in the World Golf Championships event but personally there is not much difference for me. I just hope to keep myself in a good state (of mind).”
Li expects some competitive rust but believes the physical work he has put in will pay off. “I think it’s about getting back into the pace of the game and putting myself in the best condition to play against the top golfers. Obviously, it may take some time but I’m confident in myself,” he said.
“I always pay attention on physical training. Both my swing speed and distance have increased during the past couple of months. It looks like every player has improved and I am really surprised by them, especially Bryson (DeChambeau). It’s unbelievable. Fitness is the basis of golf so we cannot fall behind in this regard.
“It’s always been one of my dreams to have a place on the PGA Tour and that’s still what I’m thinking about at present. There is, of course, a difficulty under the unusual circumstances this year. However, I still have confidence in myself and I’m excited about the next few weeks.
“I hope I can keep healthy first of all and to be able to find my pace back and improve my world ranking. Of course, it would be great if I can win a championship.”