Chinese pair hope to raise golf's profile

11/23/2011 12:57:39 PM
Zhang Xin-jun and Liang Wen-chong of China  (Getty Images)
Zhang Xin-jun and Liang Wen-chong of China (Getty Images)
Liang Wen-chong hopes to accelerate the development of golf in China with a good display at this week’s Omega Mission Hills World Cup.

The former Singapore Masters winner - he was only the second Chinese player to win on The European Tour - partners debutant Zhang Xin-jun on Hainan Island.

And Liang believes a golfing boom could sweep the nation if the pair can mount a serious challenge for the title.

“It’s good that we can stage world-class tournaments like this in China as it helps with the development of golf here,” he said.

“Of course, getting a good result, which we always plan to do, will help to raise the profile of the sport.”

Although Zhang will be making his World Cup debut, Liang is confident that his younger playing partner will be able to carry the hopes of the nation.

“I’ve every confidence in this young man as he has shown that he is capable of matching up against the best,” he added.

Zhang proved his potential when he emerged as the best Asian player with a tied-13th finish at the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions earlier this month.

While the 24 year old is excited with the prospect of playing in his first World Cup, he is also aware of the pressure representing the host nation carries.

“Liang is like a big brother to me and I know that he’ll always be there to support me as my career progresses,” said Zhang.

“For this week I’m going to do my best and in a team event like this, I’ll be looking up to him for support as we compete against the best players in the world.”

Meanwhile Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell finally have the chance this week to make up for the disappointment of losing the World Cup by one shot two years ago.

The two Ulstermen, who once again represent the whole of Ireland on Hainan Island in China, led by three with 11 holes to play in Shenzhen last time, but were beaten when Francesco Molinari recovered superbly from sand at the last and brother Edoardo sank the putt.

All four, of course, went on to play their part in Europe's Ryder Cup victory, but McIlroy and McDowell have also become US Open Champions.

The event - now biennial after being staged every year from 1987 to 2009 - features 28 teams, with fourballs on the first and third days and foursomes for the second and fourth rounds.

South Africa also have a pair of Major winners in Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen, while England are represented by Justin Rose and Ian Poulter, Scotland by Martin Laird and Stephen Gallacher and Wales by Rhys Davies and Jamie Donaldson.

Laird, Scotland's only player in the Official World Golf Ranking's top 100, makes his debut and is back in action after a seven-week lay-off. He and Gallacher, whose last appearance was in 2005, are hoping to emulate the success of Colin Montgomerie and Marc Warren four years ago.

Davies is another debutant, while Donaldson played with Stephen Dodd last time.

Austria are represented by Florian Praegant and Roland Steiner, big-hitting Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts teams up with Jerome Theunis, while World Number Four Martin Kaymer plays alongside veteran Alex Cejka.

Thomas Björn’s withdrawal means Denmark will be represented by Anders Hansen and Thorbjorn Olesen, with Raphael Jacquelin and Gregory Bourdy turning out for France.

Alvaro Quiros and Miguel Angel Jimenez will carry lofty Spanish expectations, Sweden have the experience of former European Number One Robert Karlsson alongside Alex Noren, a two-time winner this season, while last week’s Iskandar Johor Open winner Joost Luiten will also be confident of success as he partners Robert-Jan Derksen for the Netherlands.

The United States have Matt Kuchar and Gary Woodland both making their debuts and there are three teams of brothers - the Molinaris, Colombians Camilo and Manuel Villegas and Portuguese Ricardo and Hugo Santos.