Padraig Harrington returns to Hong Kong Golf Club this week as he launches his 2005 European Tour campaign by defending the Omega Hong Kong Open title.
The Irishman has won the season-opening event in the 2003 and 2004 seasons and, after missing the curtain-raising Volvo China Open last week, makes his seasonal debut in Hong Kong looking to get his 2005 season off to a similar start.
Twelve months ago Harrington birdied the last two holes to edge out South African Hennie Otto in a dramatic conclusion to the event. The World Number Six closed with a final round 66 for an 11 under par total of 269. Twelve months before that, Harrington won the BMW Asian Open in Taiwan, the event which launched the 2003 season.
He went on to win the Linde German Masters in September the week before playing a massive role in Europe’s record victory over the United States in The 35th Ryder Cup Matches at Oakland Hills Country Club, Michigan.
Joining him from that European Team are Spain’s Miguel Angel Jiménez, the most prolific winner on The 2004 European Tour International Schedule with four victories to his name, and England’s David Howell and Ian Poulter, along with one of Bernhard Langer’s assistants Thomas Björn.
Poulter has his sights set on a second title in as many appearances following his dramatic play-off victory over his Ryder Cup team-mate Sergio Garcia in the Volvo Masters Andalucia at Valderrama.
Jiménez is a proven winner in this part of the world as two of his four titles last year achieved in the Far East – the Johnnie Walker Classic in Thailand and the BMW Asian Open in China – and he will clearly be one of the favourites this week.
The Spanish contingent is further strengthened by the presence of double Masters Champion José Maria Olazábal, winner of the 2002 Omega Hong Kong Open, while other Major Champions in the field include six-time Major winner Nick Faldo of England and Paul Lawrie of Scotland, the 1999 Open Champion.
Welshman Stephen Dodd aims for a quick-fire double when he seeks to add the Omega Hong Kong Open to the Volvo China Open title he captured in Shanghai on Sunday. Dodd currently heads the new European Tour Order of Merit after claiming a long overdue first Tour victory in China.
The Omega Hong Kong Open, joint sanctioned with the Asian Tour for a fourth successive season, is the longest running sporting event in Hong Kong, dating back to 1959, and over the past 46 years some of the great names in golf have won the title, including seven Major Champions – Australian’s Greg Norman and Peter Thomson, Americans Orville Moody and Tom Watson, Germany’s Bernhard Langer, Olazábal and Welshman Ian Woosnam.