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Li leaps into Shanghai lead

Li leaps into Shanghai lead

Li Haotong carded a brilliant 64 to thrill the home crowds and open up a one shot lead after the first round of the WGC-HSBC Champions.

Li Haotong

The Chinese announced himself to the world with a top ten at Sheshan International Golf Club in 2015 and since then has gone on to claim two European Tour wins.

He made seven birdies and an eagle as he got to eight under on day one in Shanghai to lead the way from Frenchman Victor Perez.

Perez was making his World Golf Championships debut after claiming a maiden European Tour victory at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship last month and he carded two eagles en route to a 65.

England's Matthew Fitzpatrick, defending champion Xander Schauffele, Australian Adam Scott and South Korea's Sungjae Im were at six under, a shot clear of World Number Two Rory McIlroy, Austrian Matthias Schwab and Canadian Corey Conners.

Li entered the week 23rd on the Race to Dubai Rankings Presented by Rolex but a first WGC victory would put him right into the mix to be crowned Europe's Number One heading into the final three Rolex Series events of the season.

"Today is a pretty good start and good beginning," he said. "Obviously it would be a great joy for Chinese golfers and Chinese golf fans to have a Chinese player winning a WGC-HSBC Champions here in China but for the next three days, anything could happen.

"So I don't want to think too much about it. I just want to focus and concentrate on the upcoming three days because anything can happen. I just wanted to do a good job to keep this momentum going for the next three days.

"I don't feel quite well with my status and my momentum because in the previous tournament, I wasn't really playing that well. But I never expected today, that I had such a great round today in day one."

Li made a birdie-birdie start with the help of an excellent approach to the second and he sandwiched a 15 foot putt on the 17th with two putt birdies on the par five 14th and 18th.

The 24-year-old bogeyed the first but left himself just seven feet for an eagle on the second and then a smart approach to the next had him two ahead.

Scott had been a picture of consistency as he birdied the 12th, 14th, 16th and 18th to turn in 32 and a hat-trick of gains from the fifth briefly had him in a share of the lead.

Schauffele had to recover from a bogey on the tenth but he birdied the 12th and 18th either side of four in a row from the 13th.

Birdies on the fourth and fifth had him at seven under but he bogeyed the sixth, birdied the the seventh and then three putted the eighth.

Scott found water on the ninth to surrender a closing bogey and when Li hit an excellent third into the eighth from the rough he led by two again.

Perez had briefly shared the early lead with an eagle on the eighth after birdies on the second, fourth and seventh.

He then bogeyed the 11th but made another eagle on the 14th and a gain on the 16th had him back in a share of top spot.

The 27-year-old dropped a shot on the 17th but a two putt birdie on the par five last put him in solo second.

Playing alongside Li, Fitzpatrick recovered from an opening bogey with gains on the 11th, 13th, 15th, 18th, second, fourth and eighth, while Im made an eagle, four birdies and a bogey.

McIlroy came home in 31 to fly up the leaderboard, with Schwab birdieing four of his last five in a late move of his own.

South Africa's Louis Oosthuizen made the 28th hole-in-one of the season on the sixth as he got to four under alongside Abraham Ancer, Danny Willett and Zhang Xinjun.

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