Europe’s Ryder Cup heroes, led by the inspirational Ian Poulter, will be reunited in China this week when 11 members of the victorious team from Medinah Country Club and Captain José María Olazábal compete in the inaugural BMW Masters.
Englishman Poulter, who claimed a stunning four points out of four in Chicago, returns to action at Lake Malaren Golf Club in Shanghai for the first time since his hugely influential performance against the United States. He is joined by German Martin Kaymer, a BMW Brand Ambassador, who holed the putt that ensured Europe retained The Ryder Cup, and Italian Francesco Molinari, whose half point in the final singles against Tiger Woods saw Europe win by 14 ½ - 13 ½.
Also in the field is World Number One Rory McIlroy who, along with World Number Three Luke Donald, has a BMW double in his sights this week. US PGA Champion McIlroy claimed the BMW Championship on the US PGA Tour last month – his third win in four tournaments at the end of the summer – while the man he replaced at the top of the Official World Golf Ranking as a result of that form, Donald, successfully defended the European Tour’s flagship event, the BMW PGA Championship, in May.
McIlroy, who triumphed at the host venue in last year’s Lake Malaren Shanghai Masters, will also be hoping to perform well in the US$7million event to maintain his lead at the top of The Race to Dubai. The Northern Irishman currently holds a €437,334 advantage over Ryder Cup teammate Justin Rose, the Englishman who was joint runner up to Donald in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth Club, who is also in action in China.
“I can’t wait to return to Shanghai and it will definitely be special going back there as a reigning Major Champion once again,” said McIlroy. “The Chinese fans have always supported me over the years and I am delighted to return there as a multiple Major winner.
“I have had some great results in China in recent years, obviously including a win during my first visit to Lake Malaren last October. Of course my win in Hong Kong a few weeks later – especially the way in which I did it – was also special and is something I will never forget.
“The BMW Masters looks like it is going to be a top class tournament so to go to back to Lake Malaren and win for the second time would really put the icing on the cake of what has already been a great year for me.”
Englishman Lee Westwood’s participation means there will be three of the top four players in the world in action in Shanghai, while Nicolas Colsaerts, Peter Hanson, Paul Lawrie and Graeme McDowell complete the line-up of Ryder Cup heroes now competing against each other for the inaugural BMW Masters title.
They are all joined by Olazábal, their inspirational leader at Medinah, who has received a sponsors’ invite to play in the tournament, which launches a European Tour double header on the Chinese mainland with the WGC HSBC Champions to follow next week.
In addition to McIlroy and Donald, Danny Willett and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño can also seal a rare BMW double this week, having won the BMW International Open and BMW Italian Open presented by CartaSi respectively earlier this season.
Spain’s Miguel Ángel Jiménez is the only player to date to have won two BMW tournaments in one season. In 2004 Jiménez triumphed at both the BMW International Open and the BMW Asian Open, the forerunner to the BMW Masters.
The last man to win that latter title, the 2011 Open Champion Darren Clarke, is also in the field this week.
He said: “I still have very vivid memories of what was a great tournament. I cannot praise BMW's commitment to golf highly enough. For years BMW has demonstrated around the world just how close the game is to the brand's heart. Golf would be in a far worse state without the involvement of BMW. We professionals all really appreciate what the company is doing for the game.”
The tournament is sanctioned in partnership with the Chinese Golf Association, which has a contingent of 14 players in the field.