Haotong Li, China's most successful golfer, has sights set on Rory McIlroy at The Open

Haotong Li targeting Rory McIlroy at The Open

Haotong Li, who at 23 years old is already China’s most successful golfer, has admitted he is hoping to go head-to-head against Rory McIlroy up the final stretch of The Open this week at Royal Portrush.

He won’t be the only one harbouring such ambition of course but the rising star from Shanghai has form, as he overcame McIlroy at the 2018 Dubai Desert Classic, from two shots back with six holes to play. It remains the biggest win of his career to date.

“I would love to go up against Rory in the final round this week,” says Li, an ambassador for Open patron Mercedes-Benz. “I have beaten him before and I would love to do it again!

“I played a round with Rory at the Bears Club in Florida in the spring and he told me to make sure I enjoy the game, so that is what I try to do.”

Li has form in The Open too. On his debut at Royal Birkdale two years ago he finished with a blistering final round of 63, one shy of the course record, to shoot up the leaderboard and finish third.

“It is always a pleasure to play in Europe and especially in The Open,” he adds. “The majors are very special and hopefully I can continue to improve and get a good result this week.

“I feel comfortable around here and I enjoy playing the low shots you need on links courses and the bump and run shots into the greens.

“I feel like my game is improving every year, step by step, so hopefully one day I can win but you just never know when it could happen. You just need to play your own game and play your best at the right time.”

Li tees off in the first round of The Open tomorrow morning at 9:25, alongside Scotland’s Russel Knox and Austria’s Bernd Wiesberger.