Ireland’s Damien McGrane returns to the scene of his finest moment this week to defend the Volvo China Open at Beijing CBD International Golf Club in China.
McGrane, who celebrated his 38th birthday three days before the start of the tournament, hopes to be as inspired by his surroundings as he was 12 months ago. On a final day punctuated by cold and driving rain, the man from County Meath produced the performance of a lifetime by cruising to a commanding nine stroke victory to win his first European Tour title.
That runaway success, on his 169th start on Tour - the largest winning margin in 2008 - was McGrane’s vindication for all the hard work and dedication he put into the game since turning professional in 1991.
It also proved to be the first leg of a remarkable Irish ‘treble’, with Northern Ireland’s Darren Clarke winning the following week’s Asian Open and Peter Lawrie – another player competing in Beijing - capturing the Open de España a fortnight later.
McGrane is one of six former Volvo China Open champions in the field in China’s Olympic city, with 2005 winner Stephen Dodd of Wales taking part along with Austria’s Markus Brier, who triumphed in 2007 with a winning total of 274, the lowest since the event became co-sanctioned with The European Tour. Also in the field are China's Zhang Lian-wei, the 2003 champion, David Gleeson o Australia, the 2002 champion, and Englishman Simon Dyson, the Volvo China Open winner in the year 2000.
That trio of champions are joined in Beijing by Europe’s 2010 Ryder Cup Captain, Colin Montgomerie, who attempts to capture another title on Chinese soil following his victory in the UBS Hong Kong Open in 2006 and the Omega Mission Hills World Cup in tandem with Marc Warren in 2007.
Spain’s Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño will attempt to go one better than his previous European Tour event, the Estoril Open de Portugal, when he was defeated by Northern Ireland’s Michael Hoey at the third hole of a sudden-death play-off a fortnight ago.
However Fernandez-Castaño knows what it takes to win in China, having captured the Asian Open in 2006 – the second of his four titles on The European Tour International Schedule.
Paul McGinley of Ireland, the man who holed the winning putt in The 2002 Ryder Cup at The Belfry, is joined in the field by former Ryder Cup players in Scotland’s Andrew Coltart and Barry Lane of England.
This week’s tournament is the 67th European Tour event to which Volvo have attached their name with the 1987 Volvo Belgian Open being the first of their extensive portfolio which now stretches into a third decade.