HSBC Champions: Haotong Li bids to make history for China at WGC event

    Li Haotong tees off during Saturday's third round at the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai.

    Story highlights

    • Li tied for second at HSBC Champions
    • Seeking China's best result at a top golf event
    • American Kisner leads ahead of final round
    • World No. 2 Spieth jumps up leaderboard

    (CNN)Some of the world's top golfers are on show in China this weekend, but it could be the performance of a lesser-known player that sparks interest in one of the game's most lucrative growing markets.

    Haotong Li is still making his way as a professional, but the 20-year-old is in contention to win one of golf's biggest tournaments.
      More used to playing in low-key events on development tours, Li was one shot off the lead at the HSBC Champions -- one of four World Golf Championships dates on the elite calendar -- ahead of Sunday's final round .
      He was tied for second in Shanghai with world No. 8 Dustin Johnson and Scotland's Russell Knox as they chased American leader Kevin Kisner. Knox still had one hole to complete when Saturday's third round was halted due to bad light.
      Second-ranked Jordan Spieth was three shots off the lead on 13 under par after a sizzling week's-best score of nine-under 63, while world No. 3 Rory McIlroy was tied for 21st.
      Li, ranked 212th in the world, is seeking to claim the best result of a Chinese player in a PGA Tour-sanctioned event -- Liang Wenchong holds that honor, having tied for eighth at the 2010 PGA Championship.
      "This tournament is so big, it's too big -- I know that the final day, a lot of people are going to be hitting a lot of birdies," said Li, who tied for 35th at last year's tournament. "That's why I thought that my target would be making the top 10.
      "It will already be a highlight and a milestone for my short career. I hope that tomorrow I can do well and finish at the position of where I want to."
      Li, who was second at the Shenzhen International in April and sixth at the China Open a week later, carded his second 66 on Saturday, after Friday's 69, with his father on caddy duties.
      He is a product of the PGA Tour's expansion into China -- on the national circuit there he won the Order of Merit to earn a place on the second-tier Web.com Tour in the U.S.
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      "PGA Tour China changed my life," Li said. "If I didn't play PGA Tour China I wouldn't have the chance to play the Web.com Tour because Web.com Tour Q-School is so tough. I'm very thankful for PGA Tour China because they gave me a chance."
      Li was 61st in his first season in the U.S. after finishing in the top 25 seven times. He kept his playing rights by reaching the end-of-season playoffs.
      "I started getting used to the intensity because of the way I played on the Web.com," he said. "The challenge and the competition were so intense that sometimes I felt like I cannot breathe properly."
      Li will need all of that experience and more if he is to head off golf's big names on Sunday -- six of the world's top eight are playing -- and claim the $1.4 million first prize.
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      Kisner is also looking for the biggest win of his career, having been beaten in three playoffs on the PGA Tour last season.
      "I will always use that as motivation to win," said the 31-year-old. "It just shows you how hard it is to win, I think. I just want to keep putting myself there, and my chance is going to come for sure."
      McIlroy, who leads the European Tour's Race to Dubai series, was eight shots adrift after his second 68 of the week.
      The Northern Irishman, who suffered food poisoning before the start of the tournament, was tied with fifth-ranked American Rickie Fowler, while two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson was a shot back in equal 25th.