The fairways have been groomed, the greens watered, the scoreboards erected - everything is set for the BMW International Open 2003 to begin.
From Thursday, 155 golf stars from all four corners of the globe will be competing against defending champion Thomas Bjorn to become the 2003 BMW International Open Champion. World No.2 Ernie Els will be leading the challengers doing their best to prevent the Dane from winning his third title on the par-72 course in Munich North-Eichenried.
Bjorn travels to Munich full of confidence after finishing runner up at the 132nd Open Golf Championship, where he nearly won his first major title in Sandwich six weeks ago. The 32-year-old Dane said: "I am looking forward to playing in Munich. This will be an exciting tournament."
A strong field awaits him - Ernie Els has already won five tournaments on the US PGA Tour and the European Tour this year, and will be looking for another successful finish to his third appearance in Munich North-Eichenried. "There is enough room to tackle the course," said Els, describing the golf course in Munich North-Eichenried. "For a chance to clinch the title – like in every other tournament – it is crucial to putt very well. I am sure that a lot of birdies will be holed."
Two more favourites to win the tournament will be playing on home soil. On Thursday, the day after his 46th birthday, Bernhard Langer will be competing for the 14th time in this event and will be hoping to go one better than his previous four runner-up finishes. Twelve months ago Langer delivered a memorable performance as he challenged Bjorn head to head in a nail-biting finish to the 2002 BMW International Open.
Alex Cejka, too, has made plans for his stay in Munich North-Eichenried. Born in the Czech Republic, he played on the European Tour for many years, and has recently found form on the US PGA Tour, finishing an impressive fourth in the US PGA Championship in Rochester two weeks ago.
Other notable participants in this year’s BMW International Open include six further major winners: the Spaniards Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal, Nick Faldo, Paul Lawrie, Sandy Lyle, and John Daly, who won the title in Munich in 2001.
First-class golf is guaranteed over the next four days of the tournament in the north of Munich - may the battle for the €1.8 million begin.