Li garners Olympic momentum with China Open win


Haotong Li rallied to earn his first European Tour victory at the Volvo China Open, a title that puts the 20-year-old firmly in the mix for the upcoming Olympics.

Li began the final round two shots behind Felipe Aguilar and Lucas Bjerregaard, but he vaulted past both of them with a bogey-free 64 in front of a partisan crowd in his home country. Li ended the week at 22 under par, three shots clear of Aguilar to succeed Ashun Wu as the second Chinese winner of the event in as many years.

Despite racking up birdie after birdie, Li remained oblivious to his position on the leaderboard until his caddie clued him in while standing in the final fairway.

"When I hit my tee shot, I walked to my second shot there and I was thinking I need to go hybrid to get to the front edge to give me an easy chip," Li told reporters. "But my caddie said, 'Haotong, you're already three shots in the lead, you've just got to lay up and make par to win.' So thanks to him!"

Li has been seen as a player with abundant potential for quite awhile. He won the 2014 Order of Merit on PGA Tour China, and his T-7 finish in November at the WGC-HSBC Champions is the best result from a Chinese player ever in a PGA Tour-sanctioned event.

Li began the week at No. 237 in the world and was the third-highest ranked Chinese player behind Wu (No. 196) and W.C. Liang (No. 174). But the win is expected to move him up approximately 100 spots in the latest rankings, meaning Li moves from outside Olympic consideration to the top spot among the Chinese contingent, which is expected to send two players to Rio in August.

Aguilar's runner-up finish is also expected to move the Chilean into the next projected field of 60 players in line to participate in the Olympics.