The European Tour makes an historic first visit to mainland China this week with Ryder Cup players Padraig Harrington, Miguel Angel Jiménez, Paul McGinley, Jarmo Sandelin and former Open Champion Greg Norman headlining a strong cast for the BMW Asian Open at the Tomson Shanghai Pudong Golf Club.
Harrington, the World Number Eight will be defending the title following the Irishman’s victory at the Ta Shee Golf and Country Club, Taiwan, which launched The 2003 European Tour International Schedule. Harrington, who also won the 2002 Omega Hong Kong Open in the Far East, took the title last year by a stroke from India’s Jyoti Randhawa and will this week be chasing his ninth European Tour title.
Spain’s Jiménez, the only multiple winner to date on The 2004 European Tour International Schedule, will be looking for his third victory of the season and his second in Asia following his earlier successes in the Johnnie Walker Classic in Thailand and the Algarve Open de Portugal Caixa Geral de Depositos.
Irishman McGinley, who will also always be remembered for holing the winning putt in The 34th Ryder Cup Matches at The De Vere Belfry, and the 2002 BMW Asian Open champion, Jarmo Sandelin of Sweden, further bolster the field.
Norman, winner of the Open Championship in 1986 and 1993 and the only player to have won both the Volvo Order of Merit and the US PGA Tour Money List, will be playing his first event on The 2004 European Tour International Schedule since the Heineken Classic in February.
China’s Number One golfer, Lian-wei Zhang, who became the first winner on The European Tour when he won the Caltex Masters presented by Carlsberg 2003, is sure to attract plenty of home support. Zhang, who made his debut in the Masters Tournament last month, is no stranger to winning in China having won the Macau Open in both 2001 and 2002.
Korean KJ Choi, who finished an impressive third in the Masters Tournament at Augusta National, and Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee are also at the forefront of the Asian challenge with both players chasing a second European Tour title having won the 2003 Linde German Masters and the 2004 Carlsberg Malaysian Open respectively.
The BMW Asian Open, jointly sanctioned by The European Tour and the Asian Tour, carries a prize fund of €1.5 million, the largest prize fund ever to be contested on mainland China.