China's Lian-Wei Zhang defends the title which he won in dramatic fashion from South African, Ernie Els, last year when he tees off in the Caltex Masters, presented by Carlsberg, Singapore, 2004.
Zhang played the shot of the tournament at the final hole, a 136 yard nine iron over two bunkers, to set up a four foot birdie putt which enabled him to edge out the current World Number Three by a single stroke.
In the process, the determined Zhang became the first Chinese and fifth Asian golfer to win on The European Tour International Schedule. He returns to the Laguna National Golf & Country Club from March 18-21 with memories of the famous victory still fresh in his mind.
"I am looking forward to going back to Singapore and defending the title," said Zhang, who was ranked second in Asia behind India's Arjun Atwal – the 2002 Caltex Masters champion – last season. "It was a great victory for me, especially beating Ernie Els on the final green, and I want to do well again."
Zhang was a popular winner and should attract good galleries for his title defence. He has made a steady start to the 2004 campaign and was in the money at the Johnnie Walker Classic, the ANZ Championship and the Dubai Desert Classic where he finished tied 34th behind winner, Mark O’Meara of the United States, with steady rounds of 71-70-72-71.
After his momentous victory in last year's Caltex Masters, presented by Carlsberg, Singapore 2003, Zhang went on to win the Volvo China Open in Shanghai and fulfill
another of his long-standing ambitions.
Zhang and Thailand's Thongchai Jaidee, who has soared up the Official World Golf Ranking with three victories since last December and kept up the momentum with a joint fifth place finish alongside World Number One, Tiger Woods, in Dubai, are expected to spearhead the Asian challenge at the fourth Caltex Masters presented by Carlsberg, Singapore 2004, jointly sanctioned by the Asian and European Tours.
The European push for honours will be formidable with 30 Tour winners in the strong field. Scotland's Colin Montgomerie, who has topped The European Tour
Order of Merit on seven occasions, and Ryder Cup hero, Paul McGinley of Ireland, runner-up in Dubai two weeks ago, are potential contenders.
Asia has been a happy hunting ground for Montgomerie in recent years with wins at the 2002 TCL Classic in China and last season's Macau Open to his credit while McGinley is coming into form at the right time.
He fought a thrilling head-to-head battle with Mark O'Meara of the United States at the Dubai Desert Classic and lost by a single shot to the two-time Major Champion.
Europe's talented band of Tour winners will be showcased at the Caltex Masters, presented by Carlsberg, Singapore, 2004, including recent ANZ Championship winner, Brian Davis of England.
A total of eight players with Ryder Cup experience will also join in the fray, namely Paul Broadhurst, Andrew Coltart, Ignacio Garrido, Barry Lane, Colin Montgomerie, Costantino Rocca, and the winner of last week’s Qatar Masters, Joakim Haeggman.