Sun, Nov 08, 2015 - Page 20 News List

Kisner leads as Li, Spieth make moves


Kevin Kisner tees off at the sixth hole during the third round of the HSBC Champions tournament in Shanghai yesterday.

Photo: Reuters

Kevin Kisner walked off the course in darkness yesterday with a one-shot lead at the HSBC Champions and a growing list of challengers.

That included Li Haotong of China, who had a six-under 66 and was one shot behind with a gallery starting to believe the 20-year-old can deliver the biggest golf victory ever for the home nation.

Dustin Johnson, who won the HSBC Champions the last time he was here two years ago, also was one shot back after a bogey-free 65.

The list also includes Masters and US Open champion Jordan Spieth, who missed four putts inside 10 feet and still rattled off a 63 to pull within three shots.

Kisner made his first bogey of the week and at one point fell two shots behind. He rallied with a pair of birdies late in his round for a 70. Still to be determined was whether he had the 54-hole lead.

Russell Knox of Scotland was one shot back and chose not to finish in the dark. He was to return this morning to play the par-five 18th.

Kisner, who never saw Sheshan International until Thursday because of a sore back, was at 16-under 200 and in position again to collect his first victory. He lost in playoffs three times this year, including The Players Championship. His late rally was sparked by a chip-in from just off the 15th green.

“I was getting frustrated because I was hitting a lot of good shots, but I kept telling myself it was only Saturday,” Kisner said. “And then on 15, I chipped in and he [Knox] three-putted, so there’s a two-shot swing right there. It’s going to be a dog-fight tomorrow [today] no matter what.”

Johnson on Friday birdied his last three holes and then resumed his powerful display in soft conditions that featured a delay of nearly two hours because of rain.

Even so, the two names that generated the most attention were Li and Spieth.

Li has made a rapid ascent in professional golf, going from the PGA Tour China series last year to the Tour, and he looks comfortable among the elite.

He said he prepared on Friday night to face plenty of stress playing in front of so many friends and fans.

He looked like he was having a blast, especially when he opened with four straight birdies.

The biggest cheer came on the 15th, when Li struck a five-iron to 4 feet for birdie to get within one shot of the lead.

Liang Wenchong, who tied for eighth in the 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, is the only other Chinese player to finish in the top 10 in a PGA Tour event.

Even though Li is only one shot off the pace, he kept his goal modest. He wants to finish in the top 10.

Can he win?

Li laughed and said in English, “I don’t think so.”

Depending on what Knox does on the final hole, Li will either be in the final pairing with Johnson or the penultimate pairing with Spieth, two of the biggest stars in golf.

“Pretty cool,” he said with a wide smile. “Hopefully, they’re nice guys.”

Spieth would not have imagined having such a good chance, even with his pedigree and the brand of golf he played this year. He is coming off a three-week break in which he did not touch a club for two weeks and he is working on a complicated move to make sure his club his more open.

“This will be the first and only time I would say this, but I was not expecting myself to be in this position come Sunday when the week started,” Spieth said. “I came in with very little confidence in my trust of what I’m trying to do in my swing. And it’s something that I struggled with through the playoffs. It came together a little bit at East Lake, but that was all putting. But yeah, I’m extremely pleased just to be in contention.”

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