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McIlroy in contention after decent start in Shanghai

China’s Li Haotong has delighted the home crowd with his early charge in the WGC-HSBC Champions.

Rory McIlroy teeing off at the Sheshan International Golf Club.
Rory McIlroy teeing off at the Sheshan International Golf Club.
Image: Ng Han Guan

LI HAOTONG HIT the front in the WGC-HSBC Champions as he carded an excellent 64 in the first round in Shanghai this morning. 

Backed by home support, Li made seven birdies and an eagle as he claimed a one-shot lead over World Golf Championship debutant Victor Perez.

Having entered the event ranked 23 for the Race to Dubai, Li could be in contention to become Europe’s number one heading into the final three events of the season.

Perez, who won the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in September, finished on seven under par for the day, having recorded two eagles on his way to an impressive 65.

The Frenchman finished one shot ahead of four players – Matthew Fitzpatrick, Xander Schauffele, Im Sung-jae and Adam Scott – tied for third on six under, with Rory McIlroy among three players to finish on 67.

McIlroy started poorly, hitting two bogeys from his opening five holes, though he had looked to claw himself back with a birdie on the 16th.

A third bogey on the 18th set him back, but the world number two found his composure in the second half of his round – reeling off four successive birdies before the County Down man picked up another shot on the eighth to put himself right in the mix.

china-hsbc-champions-golf Leader Li Haotong. Source: Ng Han Guan

“Today is a pretty good start and good beginning,” said Li, who conceded he did not expect to have found his form so early in the event.

So I don’t want to think too much about it. I just want to focus and concentrate on the upcoming three days because anything can happen. I just wanted to do a good job to keep this momentum going for the next three days.

“I don’t feel quite well with my status and my momentum because in the previous tournament, I wasn’t really playing that well. But I never expected today, that I had such a great round today in day one.”

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Louis Oosthuizen claimed the highlight of day one, though. After reaching the turn with a bogey-free 35, the former Open champion hit a hole-in-one on the 197-yard sixth and finished the round inside the top 10.

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