The 23 year-old from China could move the dial across the world.
Ever since the advent of Tiger Woods stardom back in the late 1990’s executives in the golf industry and media have been searching for that elusive star player to help catapult the game to a new level of interest to help drive TV ratings as well as sell more merchandise all across the globe.
The likes of Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia and Dustin Johnson have all helped elevate the level of play in golf to new heights and have definitely grown the games fan base in the United States and Europe. However, none of those players have captured the worlds attention in the manner that Tiger Woods has over the course of his career.
So who is that next player that could potentially change the game on a global scale and have a significant financial impact on golf?
23 year-old Haotong Li from Hunan, China could be that player.
Li has already won twice on the European Tour picking up his first title in May of 2016 winning the Volvo China Open. He then went two years without a championship after hovering around the top of several leaderboards around Europe before eventually winning the Omega Dubai Desert Classic in January of 2018 after going toe-toe with Rory McIlroy and edging him out by one shot.
Li came within an inch of winning his third European Tour title in November of 2018 after he missed a short putt in a playoff against Justin Rose who went on to win the Turkish Airlines Open and he followed that up with another second place finish to Dustin Johnson at the Saudi International back in February. That’s some pretty impressive company to keep pace with.
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He is currently ranked No.38 in the Official World Golf Rankings and it is only a matter of time before Li is able to capture his first PGA win.
Obviously, it will be a very long time before somebody has the cultural and emotional impact Tiger has had on the game but Li’s success could definitely have a financial impact.
Just imagine what it would mean to the world of golf if Li was able to win this week at The Masters.
Having star power in the United States is a big deal in country of 330 million people but can you imagine the possibilities of having star power in the U.S as well as in China which is a country with a population of nearly 1.4 billion people. That’s four times the population of the U.S.
The executives at TaylorMade (which Li plays) as well as TV executives across the globe are salivating at the thought of what Li’s success could mean.
Li made his Masters debut last year where he finished a respectable T32. His game suits Augusta well and he had a chance to play the course all four rounds last year which should allow him the opportunity for more success in 2019.
Li won’t be considered one of the favourites heading into Augusta but he is definitely a worthy long-shot to consider.
Aside from Tiger Woods winning his fifth green jacket, Li earning his first could be the one player that could have an extraordinary impact on the game of golf worldwide.