China’s Haotong Li leads the PGA Championship by two shots over two-time defending champion Brooks Koepka, 2015 PGA champion Jason Day, Tommy Fleetwood, Justin Rose, Daniel Berger and Mike Lorenzo-Vega after two rounds at Harding Park.
Li will tee off with Englishmen Fleetwood in the final pairing on Saturday while Koepka will tee off with former world No. 1 Rose. Tiger Woods struggled to a 72 to finish at Even Par. Jordan Spieth shot a 3-under 67 to join Woods at Even par and give himself an outside shot at completing the career grand slam. Justin Thomas shot an even par 70 to make the cut at +1.
Five Takeaways from Round 2
Ranked 114th in the world, 25-year old Haotong Li was not on a lot of people’s list to contend coming into the week. Heck, he probably wasn’t even on most people’s radar to make the cut. He has just one top-20 all season and that was on the European Tour. He entered the PGA Championship with four missed cuts in his last seven events. So yes, this performance is coming out of nowhere.
Li does have some major championship success, though. He finished 3rd in the 2017 Open Championship and finished T16 at the 2018 U.S. Open. He also won the Dubai Desert Classic in 2018, one of the European Tour’s premiere events which usually features some of the top American and International players. So this isn’t entirely a new position for him. He’s been touted as a young up-and-coming talent that has major championship potential down the road. But it is a surprise given how he’s played thus far this year.
One thing we can say for sure: while he may not win the PGA Championship come Sunday, he may win a consolation prize for hardest worker. More than six hours after his round on Friday, Li was still practicing on the driving and chipping range trying to perfect his game after a 65.
Fighting through the Pain
In case you didn’t notice, Brooks Koepka was hurting. While Jason Day and Tiger Woods are fighting their back, Koepka’s dealing with hip and knee problems. Several times during the round we saw Koepka on the ground being worked on by his physio grimacing in pain. Koepka said the issue was more in his hip which had been bothering him and he woke up sore on Friday. Still, as tough as the grind was, Koepka still found a way to shoot a 68 and make some incredible up and downs for par to keep himself in contention for a third straight PGA Championship.
Tiger’s Putting Woes
It just seemed like nothing would go in for Tiger Woods on Friday. He made a total of 49 feet worth of putts during the second round compared to 115 feet on Thursday. He made a 10-footer, a six-footer, and a four-footer and that was pretty much it. In all honesty, he didn’t play really all that bad, but when a 6-foot birdie putt on the 1st fell off to the left, you knew it was going to be that kind of day. In the end, Tiger will play over the weekend but he will need to go really low on Saturday and then hopes the wind kicks up again in the afternoon to get himself into contention.
It’s brutal and it’s destroyed many good rounds. We mentioned in our preview on Tuesday that for Justin Thomas to have a chance at winning a second major, he needs to drive it straight. That’s not been happening and it almost kept him home for the weekend. Players are finding themselves just off the edge of the fairways and in deep, thick rough, having to hack it out down the fairway. It derailed what was a great round setting up for Jason Day who was tied for the lead and then made double-bogey. Joel Dahmen came to the final hole at -6 but then found the rough. Six hacks later, he was in at -3.
The Search for No. 2
It’s hard to believe that with all the talent that Dustin Johnson, Justin Rose, and Jason Day have, a total of 60 worldwide wins combined between the three of them, each of them has only one major championship. The three men have all put themselves in position to add a second major to their resume. Day and Rose sit in a tie for 2nd at -6 while DJ sits just two back of them at -4. World No. 4 Webb Simpson, also looking for his second major, sits at -1.