The European Tour’s Asian swing continues this week when Major Champions Padraig Harrington and Y E Yang headline the Volvo China Open, which this year moves to one of China’s most historic cities for the first time.
Luxehills International Country Club in Chengdu, hosts the eighth edition of the tournament since it joined The European Tour International Schedule in 2005, with Korean Yang looking to defend the title he won 12 months ago.
The 2009 US PGA Championship winner flew straight to China from finishing tied eighth at the Masters Tournament last year to capture his third European Tour victory, finishing two strokes clear off the Welsh duo of Rhys Davies and 2005 Volvo China Open champion Stephen Dodd.
With the event a week later in the calendar in 2011, he has had more time to recover from the round-the-world trek from Augusta National this time round as he looks to become the first player to successfully defend the title since it became a European Tour event.
“It is always important that a player defends any title he wins, out of respect for the championship and its sponsors, so I am pleased to be returning to China where I have already won twice. I know the Volvo China Open title has never been successfully defended, but there is a first time for everything.”
Chengdu is the breeding centre of China’s rare Giant Panda and two of The European Tour’s own giants – Sergio Garcia and Harrington - will be hoping to reproduce their best form in the Sichuan Province.
Harrington also continues to search for the consistency that brought him two Open Championships and the 2008 US PGA Championship but has shown his undoubtedly talent in glimpses this year, most notably a share of tenth in the WGC – Cadillac Championship.
“I have always enjoyed playing in China and have been made to feel incredibly welcome,” said the Irishman. “I have won before on Chinese soil in the 2004 Hong Kong Open and would love to make it another by capturing the Volvo China Open.
“We have always promised the kids we would visit the Great Wall of China, the Forbidden City and the Terracotta Warriors, but when they heard the Volvo China Open was to be staged in Chengdu, the home of the Giant Panda, that was it, decision made and we are all really looking forward to it.”
Ryder Cup star Garcia has also shown signs so far this season that his game is in the ascendency, with a share of ninth place in the Commercialbank Qatar Masters presented by Dolphin Energy his best performance.
Among those making the trip to China from last week’s Maybank Malaysian Open is Frenchman Grégory Bourdy, who was runner up to Italian Matteo Manassero in Kuala Lumpur.
The Volvo China Open is the 71st event on The European Tour to be sponsored by the car manufacturer, with a 72nd – the Volvo World Match Play Championship – to follow in Spain next month, with the winner at Luxehills earning a spot in the 24-man field.