Praise has poured in from all quarters for the organisers of this week’s Foshan Open, with many of the players commenting that it has the look and feel of a European Tour event.
That number includes England’s Nick Dougherty, who knows a thing or two about life on The European Tour, having won three times on the top tier.
After being thrown a curveball by a member of the Chinese media asking why he had ditched his spiky hairstyle in favour of a more understated and, dare we say it, grown-up look, Dougherty got down to the more serious business of commending the organisers for the professional set-up of this week’s inaugural event, held at Foshan Golf Club in Foshan City, China.
Speaking on the eve of the tournament, which is being co-sanctioned by the Challenge Tour and the Chinese Golf Association and promoted by Foshan Golf Club, Dougherty said: “I’ve been talking to a few of the guys here this week and we’ve all said that it feels like a main Tour event, which is a great credit to the organisers. I know the idea and the ambition is to grow this into a European Tour event and they’ve got off to the best possible start, so I can definitely see it happening.
“The course is superb and the golf club has obviously pulled out all the stops to get it up to standard. It feels like a special event already and the tournament hasn’t even started yet, so we all feel very privileged to be here this week.”
Those sentiments were echoed by his compatriot Oliver Wilson, whose aim is to climb into the all-important top 15 places in the Challenge Tour Rankings from his current position of 38th.
In his last competitive appearance, Wilson co-led the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on The European Tour at the midway stage, before falling away at the weekend. But if he can reproduce the form of his first two rounds in Scotland, the former Ryder Cup player is confident of taking home the lion’s share of the US$350,000 prize fund.
He said: “The first two rounds of the Dunhill were the best I’ve played all season, so that’s the sort of golf I’m aiming to produce every time I tee it up. That’s the benchmark, and if I can just get a little bit more consistency in my game, hopefully I can get my rewards here this week.
“The beauty of this Tour is that one good week can make a huge difference to your position in the Rankings. If I can win one of the next three events, I’ll be right in contention to finish inside the top 15 and get my Tour card back, so that has to be the aim. Golf is all about peaking at the right time, so hopefully I can deliver my best golf here and make a massive move up the Rankings.”
Andrea Pavan has no such concerns, having long since secured his return to the top tier thanks chiefly to victories in Germany and France.
But after ascending to the top of the Rankings the Italian is now under a different pressure to perform, as he is the man the other players are hunting down.
Pavan said: “I’m obviously fairly happy with how I’m playing but there are still areas I want to improve on, so that keeps me focused and on my game.
“Of course I’d rather be in my position than some of the other guys who are still chasing their cards, but winning the Rankings is a big goal of mine so I can’t afford to relax or switch off because I know the others guys will overtake me – especially with such big prize funds for the last three events.
“So the next few weeks are going to be really exciting, and like everyone else I’m really looking forward to them. If the next two tournaments are as good as this one, then we’re all in for a real treat.”