Joy of Golf: Li’s a leading light in for Chinese golf

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Champion: Li Haotong.

I was in Shanghai last year for the WGC-HSBC Champions, and I witnessed the making of a superstar there.

Li Haotong was an absolute sensation in finishing tied-seventh that week, but it was the manner in which he carried himself and the poise he showed on the golf course that made me mentally bookmark him to follow his career in the future.

Well, it did not take much time for the 20-year-old Chinese to deliver. Last week, at Topwin Country Club, Haotong shot a superb final-round 64 to win the Volvo China Open.

In Shanghai, he shot a 66 in the third round at the Sheshan International Golf Club, and was just one shot behind leaders Kevin Kisner and Russell Knox. As good as that 66 was, the 72 on Sunday, playing alongside world No. 1 Jordan Spieth and followed by a massive group of spectators, was even more impressive.

It looked as if the severity of the moment had got to him. Haotong got off to a horrible start, opening with a bogey followed by a double, and he was four-over after five holes. But he then made two birdies in the next three holes, saved several stunning pars, and a couple of late birdies helped him finish on even-par and tied seventh.

Spieth also shot a 72 that day, but his was nowhere near as exciting as Haotong’s. For someone that young, the pressure of home support was intense. On top of that, he was playing alongside the world No. 2. To turn around his round in the way he did, proved he was a special talent, and the Volvo China Open win now just underlines his potential.

These are exciting times for Chinese golf. There was a time when the players from the country only showed up to make up the numbers in tournaments there. Not any more. Wu Ashun won the Volvo China Open last year, and the home domination continued this year.

I am now waiting for Guan Tianlang to turn professional. In my opinion, him making the cut as a 14-year-old in the 2013 Masters, despite the two-shot penalty, was one of the most eye-popping performances ever at Augusta National.

Spieth’s major plans

The good news about Jordan Spieth is he seems to have moved on from his meltdown at the Masters.

There was growing concern about the Texan, who hasn’t made any competitive appearance since that eventful evening at Augusta National, and was missing in action until reappearing in the #SB2k16 Spring Break spectacular with friends Rickie Fowler, Justin Thomas and Smylie Kaufman.

He’s finally commented on his Masters collapse, and can’t understand why people are getting so emotional about the whole thing.

At a FedEx event in Pittsburgh, he said: “I’m not taking it very hard. I’ve had ladies at grocery stores coming up and putting their hand on me and going, ‘I’m really praying for you’. And I’m like, ‘My dog didn’t die, I’m doing OK.’ I’ll survive; it happens. Actually, I laugh about it now. I really do.”

During that chat, Spieth also revealed how he thinks, saying he expected to be in contention in, “at least 50 majors”, and something like that quadruple bogey is bound to happen again.

Time and again, I have been amazed by the scale of Spieth’s thinking. He could have said “a few majors”, but instead said “at least 50 majors”. He really is a remarkably confident 22-year-old.

The belief in Tiger

Every year before the Players Championship, Sports Illustrated conduct an anonymous poll with several professionals on the PGA Tour. It’s the same survey that mentioned Rickie Fowler as the most overrated player on the Tour before the Californian won three times last year.

Comeback trail: Tiger Woods.

Comeback trail: Tiger Woods.

The most interesting question this year was whether the players believed Tiger Woods will win again after making his comeback later this year.

Astonishingly, 43 per cent of players still believe he will.

Quote of the Week

“For me, it’s more a mental thing with Michelle now rather than physical… She is very low on confidence right now. She really hasn’t had any good tournaments to speak of this year.” – Coach David Leadbetter on his client Michelle Wie’s recent issues after she pulled out of the ANA Open with a neck injury.

Stat of the Week

23 – the highest recorded score in a single hole, by Tommy Armour at the 1927 Shawnee Open at Shawnee Country Club. There have been two 19s at Pebble Beach – by Hans Merrell on the 16th hole in the 1959 Bing Crosby National Pro-Am, and then four years later by Dale Douglas on the 10th hole.

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Nine things that sum up the legend of John Daly

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Daly is one of the game's greatest characters.

You can read our full interview with Daly by Sport360’s Joy Chakravarty in Thursday, May 6’s edition of the newspaper or online at www.sport360.com the same day.

As a teaser to our wide-ranging chat with Daly, we have picked out nine times the golfing eccentric has proved to be just that.

* Moments after winning the 1991 PGA Championship, he gave $30,000 to the family of the fan who tragically died after being hit by lightning during the tournament.

* In 1991, he was the longest hitter on the PGA Tour, averaging 288.9 yards to second-placed Greg Norman (282.3yds). In 1997, he became the first player on the Tour to average above 300yds (302yds), with Tiger Woods being second at 294.8yds.

* He has been suspended five times by the PGA Tour and cited 21 times for not giving his best effort. The Tour doesn’t announce suspension and fines, but in Daly’s case, it was made public because of a legal case.

* Every year, he pitches up outside the Augusta National in his RV and sells merchandise from the Hooters parking lot.

* Daly once estimated his gambling losses over the years to be to the tune of $55 million

* In 2009, he lost 115 pounds after undergoing a lap-band surgery and giving up alcohol

* At the 2007 Honda Classic, he fractured two ribs and separated his right shoulder when trying to stop the shot and hitting behind the ball after a female spectator jumped in front of him and tried to take a picture mid-way through the round.

* After a round on a hot and humid day in a tournament in Malaysia, he told the media: “I counted. I had 36 bottles of water… on the back nine.”

* Daly has had four failed marriages, and is now engaged to Anna Cladakis. The two got engaged last year before the Turkish Airlines Open.

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Tweets of the Week - Golf stars go on Spring Break

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Some of golf's top stars have been letting off steam in the Bahamas.

Rory McIlroy revealed that he was invited on the trip by Fowler but regrettably had to decline the offer – and ultimately was forced to watch how the trip unfolded on social media.

While the legendary Gary Player took a trip down memory lane and posted a picture of his Spring Break safari in South Africa with fellow star Jack Nicklaus in 1965…and wondered why he wasn’t invited on the trip with the Americans!

Here’s the best of the Tweets on social media:

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