The inaugural BMW Asian Open launches the 2002 Volvo Order of Merit race this week with Major Champions Nick Faldo, José Maria Olazábal and Vijay Singh providing top billing in Taiwan.
The BMW Asian Open, Asia's richest tournament boasting a prize fund US$1.5 million, takes place at the Westin Resort, Ta Shee, and is jointly sanctioned by The European Tour and the Davidoff Tour.
Much of the attention will focus on Singh, an Honorary Member of The European Tour, who won back-to-back titles in Asia in February when he captured the Carlsberg Malaysian Open and the Caltex Singapore Masters in successive weeks. The winner of the 1998 US PGA Championship and the 2000 Masters Tournament has won 11 titles in total on The European Tour along with four on the Davidoff Tour and eight on the US PGA Tour. Among those victories is the 2000 Taiwan Open.
Olazábal, another Major Champion in the field having won the Masters Tournament in 1994 and 1999, also tasted victory on The 2001 European Tour International Schedule by winning the Novotel Perrier Open de France.
Six-time Major winner Nick Faldo has been enjoying a revival, notably when he finished third in the Volvo PGA Championship, and will be buoyed by his performance in the inaugural UBS Warburg Cup last week as he starts his 2002 campaign.
Michael Campbell is also in action the week after he and David Smail steered New Zealand to a share of second place in the World Golf Championships - EMC² World Cup at The Taiheiyo Club in Japan. Campbell captured his maiden title last time The European Tour visited the Westin Resort, Ta Shee, when he won the 2000 Johnnie Walker Classic.
It was a victory which lifted Campbell's game to a new level and launched his most successful season. After holding off the challenges of Ernie Els, Geoff Ogilvy and Tiger Woods in Taiwan, Campbell went on to win a second successive European Tour title when he captured the Heineken Classic and later that season won a third European Tour title when he captured the Linde German Masters.
Earlier this year he successfully defended the Heineken Classic and Campbell is sure to be relishing a return to the Westin Resort, Ta Shee.
While the tournament launches The 2002 European Tour International Schedule, the BMW Asian Open will be the penultimate leg of this year's Davidoff Tour and the field consists of 60 players from each Tour.
BMW, sponsors of the BMW International Open since 1989, regard the move into Asia as a logical expansion in their global support of professional golf.
Ken Schofield, Executive Director of The European Tour, said: "The BMW name is synonymous with quality and we know the BMW Asian Open will maintain that tradition. The European Tour and the Asian PGA work increasingly closely on co-sanctioning tournaments and we look forward to enhancing that association in Taiwan this week."