Hot on the heels of a thrilling finale to the 2017 Race to Dubai, the 2018 season tees off this week when a host of European Tour stars are joined by the great and good of the Asian Tour in the UBS Hong Kong Open. Here’s the lowdown…
Sam Brazel put in the performance of his career last year at Hong Kong Golf Club as the Australian birdied the final hole of the tournament to win the UBS Hong Kong Open.
It was a shock victory somewhat for a player who entered the week at 480th in the Official World Golf Ranking and it earned him European Tour Membership for the first time in his 14-year professional career.
Brazel had a stunning back nine to thank for his maiden European Tour victory, with three consecutive birdies from the 11th giving him the edge going down the stretch.
Rafa Cabrera Bello, who shared the third round lead with Brazel, had piled on the pressure with a late charge coming courtesy of back to back birdies, but the 38 year old held his nerve with a stunning approach to the final green which produced just the second birdie of the day on the closing hole.
A star-studded field gathers in the bustling metropolis of Hong Kong this week for the opening tournament of the 2018 Race to Dubai and all eyes will be on the man who will step onto the tee as the European Tour’s Number One, Tommy Fleetwood.
The Englishman narrowly edged out his compatriot Justin Rose in a thrilling battle in Dubai last week to top the season-long standings and seal his first Race to Dubai crown, and both will be in action again at Hong Kong GC.
Rose, who is in some of the best form of his career having won two of his last three events, will be brimming with confidence about returning to a course where he triumphed just two years ago.
Joining last season’s European Number one and two in the field and playing in Hong Kong for the first time in his career is reigning Masters Champion Sergio Garcia, who also enjoyed a strong season last campaign, finishing fourth place in the Race to Dubai Rankings presented by Rolex.
Another star Spaniard is in the field in the shape of Rafa Cabrera Bello, the 33 year old who finished second here last year, after starting in blistering fashion thanks to opening rounds of 64 and 65 on Thursday and Friday.
Brazel returns to defend his title and he is joined by a number of former winners of this event, including the fan favourite and four-time tournament winner Miguel Angel Jiménez, as well as Scott Hend and Frenchman Grégory Bourdy.
Founded in 1889 as the Royal Hong Kong Golf Club, the club originally played in Happy Valley, a location shared with many other activities. As the Club expanded, the need for a more permanent home was addressed with the building of a small 9-hole course at Deep Water Bay, before the Club eventually moved to its current location in Fanling, most of which is leased from the Hong Kong government.
The Deep Water Bay location opened in 1898 according to golf historians in the area before the 18-hole Old Course was completed in 1911. In 1968 in order to build on that legacy, the club signed the lease of around 30 acres of land at Beas River with which it expanded the Eden Course into a full 18-hole championship course. The 'Royal' was dropped from the name of the club in 1996, in advance of the transfer of sovereignty of Hong Kong from the United Kingdom to the People's Republic of China.
Did you know?
• This year’s UBS Hong Kong Open will be the 59th staging of the event. The tournament was first played in 1959, won by Lu Liang-huan, and is the longest running sporting event in Hong Kong.
• This is the first time since 2004 that the UBS Hong Kong Open has marked the start of a European Tour season.
• The UBS Hong Kong Open is being played for the 17th time as part of the European Tour since joining the schedule for the 2002 season.
• Brazel became the third player to win a first European Tour title at the UBS Hong Kong Open, following Fredrik Jacobson (2003), José Manuel Lara (2007) and Lin Wen-tang (2009 – Nov 08).
• In the 2014 season the event was played twice. The first playing was in December 2013 when Miguel Angel Jiménez created history by becoming the oldest winner on the European Tour, aged 49 years and 337 days. He since went on to become the first 50 year old to win, at the 2014 Open de Espaňa, aged 50 years and 133 days.
• Jiménez won the title for the fourth time in 2013, following his triumphs of 2005, 2008 and 2012. That most recent victory equalled the tournament record of four wins by Hsieh Yung-yo (1963-64, 75, 77)
• Should Jiménez win the event for a fifth time, he would become just the fourth player in European Tour history to win the same official event five times. He would follow Tiger Woods, (eight times – WGC Bridgestone Invitational and seven times – WGC – Mexico Championship), Tom Watson (five times – The Open Championship) and Bernhard Langer (five times – German Open).
• The event has a wonderfully rich history of former winners, including 11 Major Champions, who have won 30 Major Championships between them. They are: Peter Thomson (1960, 65, 67), Kel Nagle (1961), Orville Moody (1971), Greg Norman (1979, 83), Ian Woosnam (1987), Langer (1991), Watson (1992), José Maria Olazábal (2002), Padraig Harrington (2004), Rory McIlroy (2011) and Rose (2015).
• The previous 57 editions of the UBS Hong Kong Open have produced 47 different champions from 17 different countries.
• History was created in the 2003 UBS Hong Kong Open when Shih-kai Lo became the then-youngest player to compete in a European Tour event, aged just 13 years and 280 days, beating the previous record set by Sergio Garcia of 15 years and 45 days in the 1995 Turespaña Open.
• History was also created in the 2009 UBS Hong Kong Open (played in November 2008), when Jason Hak became the then-youngest player to make a cut in a European Tour event, aged 14 and 304 days. He beat the previous record of Garcia in the aforementioned tournament.
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