Ryder Cup hero Rory McIlroy will seek to continue his stellar 2012 season by successfully defending his UBS Hong Kong Open title at the Hong Kong Golf Club from November 15-18.
Although Chinese Taipei's Hsieh Yung Yo claimed the title back in 1963 and 1964, no player in the modern era of the UBS Hong Kong Open has succeeded in following up a victory by retaining their crown the following year. However, a repeat performance in Fanling this year would enable McIlroy to head to Dubai the following week for the DP World Tour Championship intent on claiming his first Race to Dubai success.
The World Number One and current Race to Dubai leader has won four times globally in 2012, including his record-breaking eight-stroke victory in the US PGA Championship, to cement his place as the pre-eminent player in the game.
Six months after securing his second Major Championship at Kiawah Island Golf Resort, McIlroy helped Europe to seal a famous victory over their American counterparts, earning a point in tandem with his close friend Graeme McDowell in the Friday morning Foursomes and another in partnership with Ian Poulter in the Saturday Afternoon Fourballs, before seeing off fellow Major winner Keegan Bradley in the Sunday Singles as Captain José María Olazábal’s Team staged a heroic comeback.
After some close calls in the past, McIlroy starred in the truly unforgettable climax to last year’s UBS Hong Kong Open by holing a sublime bunker shot at the 18th hole to capture one of the Northern Irishman’s most treasured titles.
McIlroy’s box-office bunker shot sent the packed crowds at Fanling into raptures, and the 23 year old would love to repeat that feat in this year’s US$2 million event.
“That bunker shot is one of the best shots I have ever played,” reflected McIlroy. “It doesn’t get much better than holing a tough bunker shot on the 72nd hole on a Sunday afternoon to win a tournament – it was one of the best feelings I have had in my career, and I will never forget the crowd’s reaction. It was an amazing win.
“I can’t wait to get back there and try to defend my title. I have said it for a long time now that the UBS Hong Kong Open is among my favourite tournaments anywhere in the world.
“I absolutely love the city – it is just one of those places that has a great energy around it, and there is so much to do away from the golf course.
“Then you have the golf course itself, which is another major draw for me. It is one of the courses that I loved from the first time I played in 2008, and I just have so much fun playing around there.
“When you find a course that you love going back to you always tend to play well there, and that has been the case for me at Fanling.”
McIlroy could have laid to claim to more than one UBS Hong Kong Open in his short career. He lost a thrilling sudden-death play-off to Lin Wen-tang in 2009, and then finished second to Frenchman Grégory Bourdy and sixth to Ian Poulter before his glorious victory last year.
Kathryn Shih, CEO, APAC, UBS Wealth Management, said: “In light of his electrifying displays at the UBS Hong Kong Open in recent years, I am delighted that Rory is returning to defend his title this year. Coming hard on the heels of his and the European Team’s triumph at The Ryder Cup, Rory’s presence will add an extra dimension to the excitement.
“As a two-time Major Champion and the current World Number One, Rory can be relied upon to add a special frisson to the tournament in any year, and I am sure that his presence will be welcomed by golf fans across the region.”
For the second successive season, the tournament will be sponsored by the Mega Events Fund, which was set up by the Hong Kong SAR Government in 2009 to support artistic, cultural, sporting and entertainment events staged in Hong Kong.
The Hon Jeffrey Lam, Chairman of the Mega Events Fund Assessment Committee, said: “The Mega Events Fund is pleased to sponsor the UBS Hong Kong Open again, and we are glad to see the gathering of more world-class players in this wonderful international tournament. Building on last year’s success, I am confident that with the concerted efforts of participating parties and the support of the Fund, this event not only adds colour and vibrancy to our city, but also enriches the travel experience of visitors from all over the world, and further raises the profile of Hong Kong globally.”