Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell seeks a quick-fire Asian double this week when he tees up in the Volvo China Open, which boasts a record prize fund of US$2,200,000 at the Beijing CBD International Golf Club.
McDowell won the Ballantine’s Championship in Korea last month after defeating India’s Jeev Milkha Singh in a thrilling play-off and leads an impressive line-up of European Tour Members visiting the 2008 Olympic city.
Defending champion Markus Brier of Austria and 2005 champion Stephen Dodd of Wales will tee up with England’s David Howell and 1999 Open Champion Paul Lawrie of Scotland among the established names in the field.
McDowell finished in a three-way tie for second place behind runaway winner Brier at last year’s Volvo China Open in Shanghai, but the 28 year old from Portrush returns to Asia brimming with confidence following his recent victory at Pinx Golf Club on Jeju Island off Korea.
Howell has happy memories of China from his victory in the 2006 HSBC Champions in Shanghai and is another player running into form judging by his play-off defeat by Gregory Bourdy of France in the Estoril Open de Portugal two weeks ago.
Other recent winners from The 2008 European Tour International Schedule who will tee up at the Volvo China Open include England’s Richard Finch (Michael Hill New Zealand Open), fellow countryman John Bickerton (Alfred Dunhill Championship), S S P Chowrasia (EMAAR-MGF Indian Masters and Mark Brown of New Zealand (Johnnie Walker Classic).
The Volvo China Open is sanctioned by the Asian Tour, European Tour and China Golf Association and the latter organisation’s popular champion, Liang Wen-chong, has set his sights on a victory on home soil.
The reigning Asian Tour Order of Merit winner announced his arrival on the golf scene when finishing fourth as an amateur at the China Open in 1999, won the 2007 Singapore Masters and most recently finished in the top 12 at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans on the US PGA Tour.
The decision to stage the 2008 edition of the tournament in the Chinese capital was taken in order to mark the city’s hosting of the Olympic Games in August, and with preparations now at an advanced stage, Liang is keen to spark early celebrations before the world’s athletes begin their quest for gold, silver and bronze.
He said: “The Volvo China Open is our national Open, almost like the Olympics of golf in China. Every player dreams of winning their national Open, and with China hosting the Olympics games this year, winning the title on home soil would be like winning the Olympic gold medal.”
He said: “It’s always good to be back in China, and it means a lot for me to do well in front of my home fans. Hopefully, I can play some good golf and make them proud of me. I’m happy that I’m able to put China on the world map with my achievements so far. But I also think the progress of golf in the country does not lie entirely with one player.
“It’s the combined efforts of all the players who play well in tournaments which will help increase the game’s popularity.”
First established in 1995, this year’s Volvo China Open will see a ten per cent increase in the prize fund. Zhang Lian-wei and Chen Jun share the distinction of being the only Chinese players to have claimed victory at the Volvo China Open.