First McIlroy, now Malaysia as Li aims to extend winning streak

AFP
Brimming with confidence after outclassing the Irishman, the now 32nd-ranked Li is aiming for another good outing, this time in Malaysia.
AFP
AFP

Li Haotong of China waves during the final round of the Dubai Desert Classic at the Emirates Golf Club in Dubai, UAE, on January 28, 2018.

China's rising golf sensation Li Haotong hopes his life-changing win over Rory McIlroy will pave the way for another title quest at this week's Maybank Championship in Malaysia.

The 22-year-old became the first Chinese men's golfer to break into the world top 50 after he edged four-time Major winner McIlroy at the Dubai Desert Classic this week.

Brimming with confidence after outclassing the Irishman, the now 32nd-ranked Li is aiming for another good outing.

"Sometimes one week can change everything, sometimes it doesn't happen. My game is pretty solid, and I've been putting well," said Li, ahead of Thursday's opening round.

"This week I'll try to save as much energy and have low scores. It's a little bit warmer out here, but I'll go out and try to enjoy the pressure. The key is good tee shots and to get low scores."

In Kuala Lumpur three weeks ago, Li gave Team Asia 2-1/2 points in its 10-14 defeat to Europe at the Ryder Cup-style EurAsia Cup.

Top-ranked Henrik Stenson, who played for Team Europe, is expected to contend with Li at the US$3.0 million event as he seeks his first individual victory on Asian soil.

"Now I would like to get an individual victory in Asia, and this is one of the opportunities," said Stenson, 41.

"If you've got a chance to win a golf tournament anywhere in the world these days, you've got to play well and we'll see if we can get that going this week," the Swede added.

The world No. 12 is in good form coming into the European Tour and Asian Tour event after consecutive top-10 finishes at the Abu Dhabi Championship and Dubai.

Austria's Bernd Wiesberger will also be optimistic of another good week after creating fond memories at the Maybank Championship last year.

The 32-year-old carved his name into the record books after becoming the first player in European Tour history to notch nine consecutive birdies.

Also in the hunt is Paraguay's defending champion Fabrizio Zanotti, who produced one of the biggest comebacks of 2017 to win by a single stroke.

Joining in the title race are Thailand's big hitter Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Englishman Lee Westwood, who previously won the Malaysian Open.

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