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Li looking for some Mexico magic

By China Daily | China Daily | Updated: 2017-11-29 07:13

Rising Chinese star joining global elite for high-profile WGC event

Rising Chinese star Li Haotong and big-hitting Thai Kiradech Aphibarnrat hope to blaze a trail for Asia at the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship.

With the top 20 players from the European Tour's Race to Dubai automatically qualifying, Aphibarnrat and Li finished 11th and 17th respectively to join the likes of Rory McIlroy and Henrik Stenson at the Club de Golf Chapultepec in Mexico City from Feb 28 to March 4.

Having competed in the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai on five occasions, highlighted by a best finish of tied for seventh in 2015, the 22-year-old Li will make the Mexico tournament his first start in a WGC event outside of China.

Currently No 57 in the world, Li has enjoyed a steady climb up the rankings after a successful summer that included a third-place finish at the British Open, where he signed off in sensational style by shooting a final-round 63.

"I'm really excited about qualifying for the WGC-Mexico Championship in 2018," he said.

"It's always my ambition to play and compete against the best players in the world, so to get into the elite field is a special feeling.

"As it will be my first appearance in the WGC-Mexico Championship, and also my first WGC appearance outside of China, I'm determined to make it a memorable week by playing to my best ability and hopefully contending."

Li finished in a four-way tie for seventh place at the Hong Kong Open, which finished on Sunday.

A product of the China Golf Association-HSBC Junior golf program, his rapid rise is impressive.

Li shot to prominence by winning three times on the 2014 PGA Tour China en route to claiming the Order of Merit and Player of the Year honors.

Last year, he produced a home victory at the Volvo China Open and has since established himself on the European Tour, with his fourth-place finish at the recent Nedbank Golf Challenge in South Africa, one of his six top-10s around the world this year.

Meanwhile, Aphibarnrat, who logged runner-up finishes in Italy and Dubai this year, is delighted to earn his third appearance at the WGC-Mexico Championship.

A tie for 18th at the 2015 WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play is his best WGC finish so far, so the 28-year-old is eager to improve his record in March.

"I'm really excited to qualify for my third WGC-Mexico. It is always fun to have the opportunity to play in these big tournaments against the top stars in the world," said Aphibarnrat, who recorded seven top-10s this year.

"Being the first World Golf Championships of the year, I will be very motivated to produce a strong performance in Mexico and hopefully I can play well over four days to challenge for the title.

"I have enjoyed a good run of form over the past few months," he said.

"It's nice to produce a lot of top-10 finishes but I will be very keen to win again soon. If that can happen at the WGCMexico, it would be fantastic. I'm going there with the intention of contending.

"I've always believed in my own ability and it's just a matter of producing my best golf at the right moment," added the former Asian Tour No 1.

Most of the world's top 50 are expected to be in the WGC-Mexico field, with Northern Ireland's three-time major winner McIlroy and 2016 British Open champion Stenson among the big guns to seal their spots this month by finishing 13th and 15th respectively in the European Tour's Race to Dubai.

England's newly crowned Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, meanwhile, will hope to go one better in Mexico after finishing runner-up to Dustin Johnson last year.

 Li looking for some Mexico magic

China's Li Haotong plays a shot during the first round of the WGC-HSBC Champions at Shanghai's Sheshan International Golf Club in October.Getty Images

(China Daily 11/29/2017 page23)

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