Wednesday, 18 April 2007

World Number Five Ernie Els rolled into Shanghai for the BMW Asian Open on Wednesday with happy memories of his record-breaking triumph here two years ago.

The South African headlines an elite field in the US$2.3 million event which tees off tomorrow and while he may be jetlagged, Els knows his form is good enough to claim a first title of the year after finishing second in the Verizon Heritage on the US PGA Tour which concluded only on Monday.

It was Els' third top-three finish of 2007 but it is a 59th international victory that the "Big Easy" will be chasing at the Tomson Shanghai Pudong Golf Club, site of his famous 13-shot victory in the 2005 BMW Asian Open.

"I had a good time back then. I played well that week and made a lot of putts. It was a very enjoyable week. I couldn't make it last year so I'm glad to be back this year. I'm looking forward to it," said Els today.

With a Monday finish in America, Els could only arrive in Shanghai this afternoon after dropping his family off in London before taking another long haul to the Far East. He wasn't perturbed by the fact that he will not have a chance to play a practice round, especially when he had accumulated a terrific 26 under par 262 winning total two years ago which included a second round 62.

"Obviously, we've not seen the course but I'm sure it will be in good shape. It was a long flight but we're just thankful that we're here. It was a crazy week, finishing on Monday and we're here now. I've played the course before, so it'll be fine. I had a chance last week and I feel my game is very good," said Els, pipped by one stroke by American Boo Weekly who chipped in for par on the last two holes for the triumph.

Whatever the outcome, Els' visit to Shanghai will leave a lasting imprint at Tomson as he signed an agreement with the club today to design its second golf course, his second in China and 18th around the world. Els said the new course will project a stadium atmosphere, with residential property built around the course.

Joining Els as a late arrival at the BMW Asian Open, co-sanctioned by The European Tour, Asian Tour and China Golf Association, was John Daly.

Daly, a two-time Major champion, will make only his second appearance in China and despite the long trip over, he is in an upbeat mood. "BMW has been a great sponsor internationally and it's great to play in their tournaments all around the world. I've heard a lot of good things about the Tomson course as well," said Daly, winner of the BMW International in Munich in 2001.

The American crowd-puller is also feeling 100 per cent after suffering a rib and shoulder injury some two months ago. "I played in Houston before the Masters and it was hurting a bit. The shoulder had to be popped in three times! Last week was the first week that I could have a go at everything. I feel strong."

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