The Volvo China Open launches The 2005 European Tour International Schedule this week when home favourite Lian-Wei Zhang, the defending champion, and four past and present Ryder Cup players headline the field at Shanghai Silport Golf Club.
Denmark’s Thomas Björn, a Member of Europe's winning Team at The De Vere Belfry in 2002 and one of Bernhard Langer’s assistants in the record victory at Oakland Hills Country Club in September, is the most recent participant in the biennial contest.
But the seven-time winner on The European Tour International Schedule is joined by 1999 Open Golf Champion Paul Lawrie of Scotland and the English duo of Paul Broadhurst and Barry Lane in the event joint sanctioned for the first time by The European Tour and the Asian Tour.
The Volvo China Open also represents the first opportunity for the latest crop of graduates to The European Tour including 14 of the 15 graduates from the Challenge Tour. England’s Lee Slattery leads the way after finishing Number One in the Rankings with €95,979 after a season that included one victory and six top ten finishes.
That put him ahead of Italy’s Alessandro Tadini and they will be renewing their rivalry in China as both look to make a fast start to the new campaign.
China’s Zhang, a member of The European Tour, defends the title in what will be the tenth anniversary of the Volvo China Open. Last year Zhang became the first Chinese golfer to win on The European Tour International Schedule when he overcame Ernie Els in a head-to-head duel to win the Caltex Masters presented by Carlsberg, Singapore, 2003. This year he became the first player from China to play in the Masters Tournament.
“I am lucky as champion to have the opportunity to come back but there are so many good players that given the chance, they could surprise a lot of people,” said Zhang. “But I always have terrific support for the events that in play in China and can expect the same support in Shanghai again which is a big help.”
Simon Dyson of England is another past champion in the field having won the 2000 Volvo China Open, along with the Macau Open and Omega Hong Kong Open, in his rookie season on the Asian Tour, three victories which helped him win the Asian Tour Order of Merit. Now an established European Tour player, Dyson will be looking to build on his considerable success in China.
The Volvo China Open will be The European Tour’s second visit to mainland China and further emphasises Volvo’s increasing investment in the Asian market. A prize fund of $1 million will be on offer.