Branden Grace returns to Binhai Lake Golf Club this week to defend his title at the Volvo China Open, where Ye Wo-cheng will become the youngest player in history to compete in a European Tour event.
The South African was undoubtedly one of the stars of last season, becoming the first player to graduate from the Qualifying School and win four tournaments – two of them sponsored by Volvo – the following year.
Grace dominated last year’s Volvo China Open, carding rounds of 64 and 69 over the weekend to finish on 21 under par and prevail by three strokes from the 2011 champion Nicolas Colsaerts of Belgium.
It was Grace’s third victory in the space of three months, following his wins in the Joburg Open and the Volvo Golf Champions, and he would later add the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship en route to finishing in sixth place in The 2012 Race to Dubai.
Grace said: “This is the second Volvo-sponsored tournament I have returned to as the defending champion, and it’ll be great to go back to Tianjin. I played well in the Volvo Golf Champions at the start of the season and really enjoyed the added pressure of trying to defend my title, even though it was a completely new experience for me.
“I haven’t got off to quite as good a start as I did last season, although that was always going to be difficult! But after a tough first day at the Masters I was really pleased with my next three rounds, and it gives me a lot of confidence and belief to take into this week. Binhai Lake is a great venue which really suits me, and I don’t see any reason why I can’t play well there again.”
The World Number 32 ended his debut appearance at the Masters Tournament in 18th place, having rebounded superbly from an opening round of 78 to finish on level par.
One of the headline acts at Augusta National was 14 year old Guan Tianlang, and this week another young Chinese star, Ye Wo-cheng, will attract plenty of attention after successfully emerging through the Western China Qualifier last month.
Ye will be just 12 years and 242 days young when he gets his first round underway on Thursday, thereby becoming the youngest competitor in European Tour history.
Other notable names in the field include Australian Brett Rumford, who sealed his fourth European Tour title in spectacular fashion at last week’s Ballantine’s Championship.
The two men Rumford beat in the play-off, his compatriot Marcus Fraser and Scotland’s Peter Whiteford, are also at Binhai Lake Golf Club.