Li reloads for big WGC test

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China's Li Haotong tracks his drive during the British Open, where he failed to make the cut, at Royal Portrush Golf Club, Portrush, Northern Ireland, last week.

China's rising star Li Haotong hopes to bounce back into top form when he returns to World Golf Championships action at the $10.25 million St Jude Invitational, which started on Thursday.

The 23-year-old uncharacteristically missed the cut in his past two tournaments, including last week's British Open, but a first trip to TPC Southwind in Memphis has given him a fresh dose of confidence.

In his last three WGC starts, Li has not finished lower than T19, which he achieved at the WGC-Mexico Championship in February.

He posted a T11 at the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai last fall before adding a commendable T9 at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin in March after progressing past the group stage with a win over FedExCup No 1 Brooks Koepka and Europe's Ryder Cup star Alex Noren.

Li's best finish in a WGC remains a T7 at the 2015 WGC-HSBC Champions, which he aims to improve this week.

A two-time European Tour winner, Li began his campaign in the company of American star Phil Mickelson and Denmark's Thorbjorn Olesen in the first round.

"I always enjoy playing in the World Golf Championships. You always get good players in the tournament and it's very big," said Li.

Making his first visit to Memphis, a city known as the birthplace of blues, soul, and rock 'n' roll and famous for its BBQs, Li is also keen to secure his debut appearance in the Presidents Cup for the International Team.

Despite missing the cut last week, the world No 46 remains in fifth position on the team's points standings, with the top eight players as of Aug 19 securing automatic places on captain Ernie Els' team to face the United States Team at Australia's Royal Melbourne Golf Club in December.

Chinese Taipei's C.T. Pan is also chasing for honors this week, and was set to play alongside former Masters champions in Bubba Watson and Adam Scott in the opening two rounds.

Pan secured his first PGA Tour victory at the RBC Heritage in April and is hoping to lock down his first appearance in the Presidents Cup. He currently ranks sixth on the International Team standings.

The WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational is Pan's second WGC appearance after he finished T22 at the WGC-HSBC Champions last year.

The stellar St Jude lineup is led by Koepka, who is also the world No 1. After 19 editions at Firestone Country Club, the tournament has been moved to TPC Southwind, former host of the St Jude Classic, for the first time.

American Justin Thomas is the defending champion while the most recent winner at TPC Southwind is Dustin Johnson.

This week's field features nine of the top 10 in the FedExCup standings, with two weeks remaining in the race for the Wyndham Rewards Top 10, which pays the No 1 ranked player at the end of the regular season a $2 million bonus.

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