After stops in Korea and Japan, the PGA Tour is in China this week for the WGC-HSBC Champions. Here’s how things stand after the first round at the no-cut, 78-player event, where home favorite Haotong Li has jumped out to a one-stroke lead over France's Victor Perez.
Leaderboard: Haotong Li (-8), Victor Perez (-7), Xander Schauffele (-6), Adam Scott (-6), Matthew Fitzpatrick (-6), Sungjae Im (-6), Corey Conners (-5), Rory McIlroy (-5), Matthias Schwab (-5)
What it means: With five worldwide wins in China under his belt, including the European Tour’s Volvo China Open in 2016, Li is obviously very comfortable playing in his home country, and the 24-year-old certainly looked the part on Thursday, opening with an 8-under 64 to lead Perez by a shot at Sheshan International Golf Club.
Just behind Perez is a group at 6 under that includes Schauffele and Scott. Schauffele, the 2016-17 PGA Tour's Rookie of the Year won this event last year in a playoff, while Scott, who has two WGC titles, a Players Championship win and a Masters victory to his name, is looking to get back in the winner's circle for the first time since 2016.
Round of the day: Beginning his day on the back nine, Li started hot and made the turn at 5 under. After a brief stumble with a bogey on the par-4 first hole, he rebounded with an eagle at the second and added two more birdies to his card to open with an 8-under 64.
Li's closest challenger, Perez, carded two eagles and birdied his final hole for a 7-under 65. Perez, a European Tour rookie, won his first event a month ago at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.
Best of the rest: While there is plenty of star power lurking, it's hard to overlook McIlroy's 5-under 67 considering how he finished last week. McIlroy has been a birdie machine since starting the Zozo Championship with a 2-over 72, finishing that tournament in a tie for third after going 65-63-67 over his next three rounds, and he kept it up on Thursday in China. The PGA Tour's reigning Player of the Year balanced three birdies with three bogeys on his front side, but rallied on the back with five birdies in a six-hole stretch to climb into contention with 54 holes to play.
Biggest disappointment: Hideki Matsuyama seemed to have found some form last week at the Zozo Championship, where he made a run at Tiger Woods but ultimately came up short and settled for a second-place finish.
But the five-time PGA Tour winner couldn’t keep the momentum going on Thursday at the WGC-HSBC Champions, where he put himself in an early hole with an opening 3-over 75. It wasn’t all bad for Matsuyama, as he had carded two birdies to three bogeys through 17 holes and stood on the 18th tee just one shot over par. But he was doomed by a closing double-bogey 6 on the par-4 ninth hole and now sits T-70, ahead of just three players in the field.
The former Open champion aced the 197-yard, par-3 sixth hole on his way to a 5-under 67.