Pressure takes its toll but China's Li enjoys the experience

Aug 9, 2020; San Francisco, California, USA; Haotong Li tees off on the 4th hole during the final round of the 2020 PGA Championship golf tournament at TPC Harding Park. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

(Reuters) - China’s Li Haotong says he struggled to deal with the pressure of leading a major championship but is confident the experience will hold him in good stead as he continues his pursuit of a maiden PGA Tour victory.

Li fired rounds of 67 and 65 to take the halfway lead at the PGA Championship, becoming the first mainland Chinese golfer to top the leaderboard in any round of a men’s major.

But rounds of 73 and 69 over the weekend dropped him down to 17th on six-under-par, seven shots behind champion Collin Morikawa.

“Saturday was very stressful ever since I woke up... since I’ve never been there before,” said Li. “I just felt super tired, not because of practice, but today I felt like everything was released.

“I played really well until 16, missed a short birdie putt, and 18, I just want to go aggressive, try to make a birdie, and went a little bit left (into a penalty area). Yeah, it’s great experience.”

Li’s best effort at a major remains the third-place finish he achieved at the British Open in 2017.

Reporting by Arvind Sriram in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford