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Li looking like old self after solid start to year

China Daily | Updated: 2022-01-18 09:28
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China's Li Haotong tracks a shot during the final round of the Sony Open at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday. GETTY IMAGES

China's Li Haotong narrowly missed a top-10 finish at the Sony Open in Hawaii on Sunday but took away a huge dose of confidence as he got his comeback bid on track for 2022.

The 26-year-old birdied the last hole at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu for a closing 1-under 69, good for a share of 12th place on a 15-under total of 265 at the $7.5 million PGA Tour tournament.

Japanese star Hideki Matsuyama won the event in a playoff against Russell Henley after both players finish tied on 23-under.

Li started the tournament with a world ranking of 460 following a difficult past two years. So he was understandably pleased with his showing in Hawaii.

He started the final round four shots off the lead but his putter failed to cooperate as he missed makeable birdie opportunities on holes 2, 3 and 6.

The two-time DP World Tour winner knocked in birdies on 9 and 10 from inside 10 feet (3 meters), but then gave away shots on 11 and 13 before finishing with a flourish by wedging his approach to a foot on the last.

"I missed many opportunities as my putting was not good. But overall it wasn't bad. It is my first tournament in the new year, it is a positive start for me. I have hopes for the new season," said Li, who once ranked inside the world's top 50.

He knows his game remains a work in progress after switching coaches to Jamie Mulligan, who also works with reigning FedExCup champion Patrick Cantlay.

"I have got to improve my tee shots. Less fades and more straight. But I think I am on the right track," said Li.

"This week has given me a lot of positive feedback and helped me to gain more confidence. I hope I can continue to improve in the following tournaments."

Zhang Xinjun of China, pictured in action in April last year, got his season off to an encouraging start in the Bahamas. GETTY IMAGES

Meanwhile, at the Korn Ferry Tour's opening event, The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay, China's Zhang Xinjun earned a share of the first-round lead with a solid 4-under 68 on Sunday. Compatriot Marty Dou Zecheng carded a 70 for tied-seventh while Carl Yuan Yechun was a further stroke back.

"I played solid. Only one bogey at the 16th because I had a problem with my tee shot. I saved several pars even though I didn't do too well off the tee. It was exciting and I got a bit lucky too. The wind made it a testing course, but I think I had a good day and I'm satisfied," said Zhang.

The 34-year-old lost his PGA Tour card last season and is set to grind it out again on the Korn Ferry Tour.

"I am more comfortable with myself over the years playing on the Korn Ferry and PGA Tour. I feel more at ease playing tournaments," said Zhang.

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