Haotong Li chips to the green on the seventh hole during the second round of the PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park on Friday. (Charlie Riedel / Associated Press)
By Jeremy Harness
The PGA Championship has a new leader, and it is not one of the usual suspects, and not a name that one would expect to be atop the leaderboard of a major championship.
Haotong Li shot a bogey-free round of 65 to take the 36-hole lead by two strokes. He got off to a hot start on Friday, birdieing three of his first five holes before knocking down a birdie at the par-4 ninth. He followed that up with a birdie at the par-5 10th and then parred out the rest of the way to maintain that two-shot lead.
“Well, I’ve got no expectation actually,” Li said. “Because you know, (for the) last few months, (I’ve) stayed at home doing nothing. I just want to go out here and have fun.”
Li is being closely followed by a pair of former PGA champs, Jason Day and defending champion Brooks Koepka, as they are tied for second trailing by two shots at six-under overall.
Starting on the 10th hole on Friday, Koepka got the momentum going with a birdie at the par-5 10th but gave it back with a bogey at the 13th. He picked up a little steam with a birdie at the par-4 18th and quickly followed that with a birdie at the par-4 first.
He then played the remaining eight holes even-par with a birdie and a bogey to finish the second round with a two-under round of 68.
“I’m pretty happy,” Koepka said. “I felt like I probably could be ten right now. Hit a lot of good putts, just didn’t go in. A couple of them, if I just hit them, they’re in. But driving it pretty well. Iron play, I’m pretty pleased with. You know, I like where I’m at.”
Day also had an erratic Friday round, which was marred by a double bogey at the par-4 12th. He picked things up considerably with a stretch of three birdies over four holes. However, Day gave some momentum back with a bogey at his final hole, the ninth, for a one-under round of 69.
“I definitely feel good,” Day said. “I’m to the point now where I’m nitpicking my round and before I really wasn’t. Before I was just happy to get inside the cut, you know, and get on to the weekend, and sometimes you need those weeks to just make it and get some confidence. Certainly have gained a lot of confidence over the last three times I’ve played, and you know, I’m just going to try and tidy up the putting for this weekend hopefully and hit it a little better off the tee.”