European Tour Number One Henrik Stenson and Ryder Cup star Ian Poulter will headline a stellar field at the Volvo China Open this week as the event celebrates its 20th edition.
The pair are joined by 2011 winner Nicolas Colsaerts, who finished joint runner-up in the Maybank Malaysian Open last week, his 2012 Ryder Cup team-mate Francesco Molinari, reigning US PGA Champion Jason Dufner and a host of leading players such as Spaniard Pablo Larrazábal, American Peter Uihlein and defending champion Brett Rumford of Australia.
Larrazábal was two shots off the lead heading into the final round last year and eventually settled for a share of fifth place, and he is hoping to take some fine recent form to Genzon Golf Club in Shenzen, the new host for the RMB20million event after two years at Binhai Lake Golf Club.
The 30 year old was tied eighth in Malaysia last week, when he stole the headlines on the second day after jumping into a lake mid-round to escape a swarm of hornets.
“It was an unbelievable week with the story on Friday, and on Sunday before I teed off I split my trousers,” said Larrazábal. “It was one of those weeks when everything happens, but to finish in the top ten was very good.
“After 13 holes on Friday I didn’t know if I could even finish the round because I was in so much pain, and the shock was so big. And that night I slept no more than 30 minutes because my head hurt so much.
“But now I have to forget about this and move on to next week. I’ll be taking all the positives from Malaysia – I played really well, especially under the circumstances.
“It’s a new course for all of us, so on Tuesday we’ll have to check it out. I played very well in this tournament last year, but it doesn’t mean I’ll do the same again this year. But I’m feeling very confident, and I’m looking forward to having another good week.
“If I can start to put the ball on the fairway from the tee, it will be even better. My irons are very sharp, and I’m very confident with my putting. I changed my grip last week and got a new putter, and every day it’s getting better and better.”
Last year Rumford was the runaway winner, carding a final round 68 to triumph by four shots from Finn Mikko Ilonen and complete brilliant back-to-back victories, having claimed the Ballantine’s Championship the previous week.
The 36 year old has had some encouraging results so far this season, chiefly tied tenth at the Volvo Golf Champions and joint 11th at last month’s Trophée Hassan II.
Fifteen year old Chinese prodigy Guan Tianlang, who became the youngest player to make the cut at the Masters Tournament in 2013, aged 14 years and five months, is also in the field. Guan played in the Volvo China Open two years ago, setting the record as the youngest player to appear in a European Tour event.