Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy, the men currently occupying the first two places in The Race to Dubai, will headline the field for this week’s UBS Hong Kong Open at the Hong Kong Golf Club in Fanling.
The duo both finished in the top eight in last week’s enthralling WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai, McIlroy’s stunning closing 63 helping him to fourth place – a finish which saw him leapfrog Germany’s Martin Kaymer into second spot and to within €52,321 of Race leader Westwood.
Now both will turn their attentions to the UBS Hong Kong Open which, in conjunction with the JBWere Masters in Australia, represents the last week of tournament action before the top 60 in The Race to Dubai head to the season-ending Dubai World Championship.
McIlroy in particular will be hoping to go one better than in the tournament 12 months ago, when he was beaten in a play-off by Lin Wen-tang of Chinese Taipei.
“Although unfortunately I came up just short last year, playing in Hong Kong was a wonderful experience and I thoroughly enjoyed four days of great golf,” said McIlroy. “It will be a strong field once again, and I’ll be doing my utmost to go one better this time.”
Westwood has enjoyed plenty of success in Asia in the past with victories in Japan, Malaysia and Macau, but he will be making his first appearance in Hong Kong.
“I’m delighted to be making my debut in the UBS Hong Kong Open,” said the Englishman. “I’ve heard great things about the tournament from the other players, and it promises to be a fantastic week.
“I understand Fanling is a tight, old-style course which places a lot of emphasis on accuracy, so hopefully it will suit my game and I can put on a good show for the fans. Asia has been kind to me in the past, and it would be wonderful if I could post another victory in the region.”
Asian interest in the event – once again co-sanctioned by The European and Asian Tours – will centre largely around Korea’s Y E Yang who stunned the world of golf in August by beating Tiger Woods in the US PGA Championship at Hazeltine to become the first Asian golfer to win a Major Championship.
“Being Asia’s first Major winner is a dream come true for me, and it’s an honour to play in front of the Asian fans who have always shown such passionate support for the sport and its players,” said Yang. “I’m very much looking forward to the UBS Hong Kong Open, as it is a tournament with a rich history and great tradition.”
One player not in action this week, however, is Paul Casey. The Englishman was scheduled to appear in Hong Kong, but had to withdraw from the WGC-HSBC Champions with a recurrence of the rib injury which ruled him out of the game for three months in the summertime. He immediately flew home to the United States for treatment.
Casey’s absence means none of the players in third, fourth and fifth positions in The Race to Dubai – Martin Kaymer, Ross Fisher or Casey – will be in action this week, giving Westwood and McIlroy a chance to strengthen their hand. The next player on the list teeing it up is Australia’s Geoff Ogilvy, who returns home to compete in the JBWere Masters with one eye on improving his position before he heads to Dubai.
The UBS Hong Kong Open – which is Hong Kong’s oldest professional sporting event, having started in 1959 – has a rich history and has been won by nine Major Champions in the past: Peter Thomson, Kel Nagle, Orville Moody, Greg Norman, Ian Woosnam, Bernhard Langer, Tom Watson, José María Olazábal and Padraig Harrington.