England's Paul Casey has confirmed his title defence of the Volvo China Open next month as he bids for a unique double.
The Ryder Cup star will spearhead a strong European contingent that includes former Open Champion Paul Lawrie of Scotland and a cosmopolitan list of proven winners in Scott Drummond of Scotland, Anders Hansen of Denmark, England's Kenneth Ferrie, Frenchman Jean-Francois Remesy, Ignacio Garrido of Spain and Welshman Phillip Price.
The US$1.8 million Volvo China Open, to be played at Beijing Honghua Golf Club from April 13-16, is jointly sanctioned by The European Tour and the Asian Tour and Casey, who has five career victories, said it was a special feeling to be defending China’s national Open.
"I am looking forward to the Volvo China Open. It is an early defence and it seems only like yesterday that I was in Shenzhen lifting up the trophy and it is very a nice feeling to be defending.
"I welcome any chance I have to defend a title. It means I have done something great and I am really looking forward to be coming back to defend in China," said Casey, who was part of Europe's winning Ryder Cup Team in 2004.
The 28-year-old Casey enjoyed the great honour of lifting the national Open of the world's most populous nation at Shenzhen Golf Club last November when he overcame a five-stroke deficit and caught compatriot Oliver Wilson with a course-record equaling 65 in the final round. Casey then prevailed in a play-off with a birdie.
A switch in venue and dates means Casey's defence has come up much earlier but it has presented him with a rare opportunity to win the same event twice in a season. Last November's Volvo China Open was positioned as the second leg of The 2006 European Tour International Schedule and April's edition will be the 18th leg.
Casey said: "To have the opportunity to win the Open twice in one season is also unique and that would be quite something. Maybe, I would have to present myself with the championship trophy if I won again."
China has been good to Casey in recent times as he also triumphed in last year's TCL Classic in Sanya, also after a play-off success over Irishman Paul McGinley. The Englishman said he feels comfortable in Asia which he believes is very much the reason why he often finds success in the region.
"This country has been very good to me. I don't know why but I feel very relaxed in China and you usually play your best golf when you are relaxed.
"I am really looking forward to it. I am sure it will be a great course again. We have played some fantastic courses in China and I am sure this will be another superb test. They always seem to be in wonderful condition," he said.
Volvo Event Management president and CEO Mel Pyatt was delighted to welcome Casey back to the Volvo China Open. "Paul Casey is a wonderful talent and a true gentleman. Last November, he produced a wonderful performance and lifted the trophy with a great display worthy of an Open champion. I am sure he will be determined to hold on to the Volvo China Open crown."
The talented Casey will likely have to contend with the likes of the smooth-swinging Lawrie, who rose to fame after winning The Open at Carnoustie in 1999. A five-time winner in Europe, Lawrie will head to Beijing in full confidence as his previous trip to China saw him finish 11th in the HSBC Champions tournament where he was the joint first round leader.
Drummond, Garrido and Hansen are all former winners of the PGA Championship at Wentworth Club in England while Ferrie, who has two career victories in Europe, enjoyed his career best season in 2005 when he finished 11th on the Order of Merit to underline his rise to prominence.
This year's Volvo China Open will see a record prize fund of US$1.8 million on offer, an increase of US$500,000 from last year.
Volvo was the first sponsor of professional golf in China, launching the Volvo China Open in 1995 with close cooperation with the China Golf Association and Richtone Worldwide.
It plays an irreplaceable role in the 21-year history of golf in China and was the first to create a 72-hole Open competition named after the nation. The advent of China's national Open has also cultivated top-class golfers in China and Asia such as Zhang Lian-wei, Chen Jun and Liang Wen-chong.
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