Irish golf could claim a sliver of the halfway lead in the PGA Championship as Chinese star Haotong Li fired a second-round 65 to set the early pace at TPC Harding Park.
The 25-year old, who became the first Chinese player to make the Presidents Cup team last year, led by two shots from England's Tommy Fleetwood, who made seven birdies and a bogey in an impressive, six-under 64 to jump from 48th to second. "I've been pretty much hit in all the right spots," said Li, sporting a WeChat logo on his cap that was sure to infuriate Donald Trump, who yesterday issued orders that would ban the social media apps WeChat and TikTok from operating in the US if they are not sold by their Chinese-owned parent companies with 45 days.
"Even if I miss the green, I still got a chance to up-and-down. I think the key on this course, you just need to hit as many fairways as you can."
As for the Irish connection, the Chinese star was first spotted by Irish PGA professional Paul McLoughlin when he was Director of Golf at the Lake Malaren resort outside Shanghai.
"I helped him when he was starting out and the backing he got from Lake Malaren was phenomenal," McLoughlin said of a player who is managed by the same firm that looks after Tiger Woods.
"I even travelled to Fota Island with him when he got an invitation to play in the Irish Open at the age of 17 (in 2014) and we became friends."
While his recent form has been poor, Li's rise has been meteoric and he hasn't forgotten the help he got from McLoughlin at Lake Malaren as he fielded questions in San Francisco last night.
"Yeah, they helped me a lot, especially when I first turned pro," said the man who started out caddying for his father, a golf fanatic who owned a car dealership in Hunan.