The second BMW Asian Open launches The 2003 European Tour International Schedule this week with Jarmo Sandelin defending the title at the Ta Shee Golf and Country Club in Taiwan.
Twelve months ago Sandelin got his season off to a winning start when he held off the spirited challenges of Spain’s Jose Maria Olazábal and Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee to claim his fifth European Tour title. The Swede fired a closing round of 68 for a ten under par total of 278 and a one stroke victory.
"It's good to come back as the defending champion," said Sandelin, who is to marry his long-time girlfriend Linda next month. "I've not successfully defended a title before so maybe history will be made here this week. I played well in my last event two weeks ago so it is nice to find some form as I defend my title this week."
Olazábal is also back in Asia hoping to repeat the outstanding start to his 2002 campaign when he followed his runners-up finish in Taiwan with victory a week later in the Hong Kong Open. Those two weeks laid the foundations to a wonderful start to his sesaon as he went on to win the Buick Classic on the US PGA Tour and finish fourth in the Masters Tournament.
“I have great memories from Asia last year and hopefully, I can repeat my performance,” said Olazábal. “I finished second here 12 months ago and then went on to win in Hong Kong, which were memorable.
“I like Ta Shee, I think it’s a great golf course. It is very difficult when the wind blows and there is elevation in most holes from tee to green and that makes it difficult with club selection. It’s a great challenge.”
The double Masters Champion is joined in Asia’s richest tournament, which carries a total prize fund of €1,504,364, by two other Major Champions in John Daly and Ian Woosnam.
The stellar cast is further enhanced by the presence of two of Europe’s Ryder Cup heroes in Padraig Harrington, who finished the 2002 season in second place in the Volvo Order of Merit behind Retief Goosen, and Paul McGinley, who holed the winning putt at The De Vere Belfry in September. Europe’s victorious Captain Sam Torrance is also in the field.
The BMW Asian Open marks the start of The 2003 European Tour International Schedule and the third last leg of the Asian PGA-run Davidoff Tour and Asia’s Number One Jaidee, who finished second to Colin Montgomerie in the TCL Classic in China last week, is another who will be relishing a return to the Ta Shee Golf and Country Club as he leads the home challenge.