SHANGHAI – Li Haotong has come a long way in the HSBC Champions, which he realized before hitting any of his 64 shots Thursday that carried him to a one-shot lead.
Standing next to him on the tee was Phil Mickelson, a longtime golf idol. Li was part of the HSBC junior program when this World Golf Championships event began in 2009, and he posed for a photo with Lefty.
“My idol then, and my friend now,” Li said. “Kind of fun.”
He found all sorts of enjoyment on as perfect a day as can be found at Sheshan International, with warm weather and surprisingly calm conditions. Li felt intimidated the first time he played this event when he was 18, and especially as a 20-year-old in 2015 when he was one shot out of the lead going into the final round.
He enjoyed every minute Thursday, and he gave the home crowd plenty to cheer with his 8-under 64, by two shots his lowest round at Sheshan International.
Li opened with two birdies and finished the back nine with two birdies. And after his lone mistake on the par-4 first hole, he responded with a 4-iron that set up eagle and led to the loudest cheer of a calm afternoon.
“Obviously, it would be great joy for Chinese golfers and Chinese golf fans to have a Chinese player winning a WGC-HSBC Champions here in China,” Li said. “But for the next three days, anything could happen.”
He was one shot ahead of Victor Perez of France.
Among those who are two shots behind are defending champion Xander Schauffele and Adam Scott, who both stumbled at the end. Sungjae Im and Matt Fitzpatrick also were at 66. Rory McIlroy had three bogeys on the back nine and was going nowhere at even par until he ran off four straight birdies on the front and got in the mix quick with a 67.
PGA: In Southampton, Bermuda, Scottie Scheffler closed with a bogey for a 9-under 62 and a one-stroke lead after the first round of the inaugural Bermuda Championship.
“You think about it a little bit,” Scheffler said about a 59. “The eagle putt on seven was pretty close and then on eight, felt like I hit a pretty good putt, just misread it. I guess kind of lost a little momentum.”
Wes Roach was second. He eagled the par-5 seventh, but also finished with a bogey on No. 9. Rob Oppenheim, Bo Hoag and Russell Knox shot 64. Oppenheim birdied seven of the first eight holes, then parred the final 10.
LPGA: In Taipei, Taiwan, defending champion Nelly Korda and Mi Jung Hur each shot 6-under 66 to share the first-round lead at the Swinging Skirts.
Korda, who earned her first U.S. LPGA Tour victory here last year, had three bogeys but made up for it with seven birdies and an eagle.
Despite strong gusts at Miramar Golf Country Club, 28 players managed to shoot under par.
“It was a tough one out there,” Korda said. “The wind was really strong.”
Minjee Lee of Australia, who was the runner-up a year ago, was a stroke off the pace after a 67.
Four more players were another stroke behind – Amy Olson, Caroline Masson, Angel Yin, Su Oh –and six others were three off the lead.
Korda's eagle on the par-4, 15th made the difference.