Ahead of the defence of his UBS Hong Kong Open title, newly-crowned Race to Dubai champion Rory McIlroy was joined by four-time US PGA Tour winner Matt Kuchar and a trio of Major Champions, Padraig Harrington, Paul Lawrie and YE Yang, in a press conference held on Tuesday afternoon at The Peak Tower in Hong Kong.
McIlroy wrapped up The Race to Dubai title with a third place finish in Singapore last week, and the World Number One will now attempt to extend his remarkable record in a tournament in which he finished first last year, runner-up in 2008 and 2009, and tied sixth in 2010.
“Hong Kong has always been a place I’ve enjoyed coming to,” said McIlroy. “It’s always got a great buzz, a great atmosphere, and there is just something about Fanling and the Hong Kong Golf Club that I really enjoy. This week will be extra special after wrapping up the Race to Dubai last week in Singapore, and I can’t wait to tee up as the defending champion this week.”
Like his fellow Irishman, Harrington has also enjoyed success at Hong Kong Golf Club, winning at Fanling in 2003 and finishing runner-up one year later.
“Hong Kong is one of the best venues of the year,” said the three-time Major Champion. “It stands out as a great golf course for me, but I think everybody here this week loves the course. Sometimes you go to a place and half the field might like the course, whereas for the other half, it might not suit them. But this week everybody loves the course.”
US Ryder Cup player Kuchar, winner of The Players Championship on the US PGA Tour this year, will be making his UBS Hong Kong Open debut this week.
“It’s great for us American players to test ourselves outside America, test our games, and see what the competition is like over in Asia, and Europe,” he said. “We only arrived last night, but already I can see that Hong Kong is a beautiful city, and one I am really looking forward to getting to know better over the coming days.”
Lawrie was in opposition to Kuchar in The Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club, where Europe emerged triumphant after a dramatic final day, with the Scotsman playing his part courtesy of a 5&3 victory over Brandt Snedeker.
The 1999 Open Champion, currently in tenth place in The Race to Dubai, has won eight European Tour titles – including two this year – and will be hoping to add to his bulging trophy cabinet at this week’s US$2million event.
His fellow Major Champion, YE Yang, arrived in Hong Kong on the back of a top ten finish in Singapore last week. The 2009 US PGA Champion finished in a tie for seventh place at the 2011 UBS Hong Kong Open.
Peter Aherne, President of the Hong Kong Golf Association, said: “I would like to thank UBS for their continued support of this event – this is now their eighth year as title sponsor.
“I would also like to express my thanks and gratitude to the Mega Events Fund for their help and commitment to the event. Their assistance helps to bring leading players, such as those present today, to compete in the UBS Hong Kong Open, showcasing Hong Kong as a destination.”
Vincent Fung, Hong Kong’s Assistant Commissioner for Tourism, said: “The Hong Kong Open is one of our oldest professional sporting events. The Mega Event Fund is pleased to give its support again to this historic Championship in 2012.
“With MEF’s funding support, the event has grown into a signature event with the participation of a very strong field of players which is unprecedented in its long history. It further enables a range of publicity and community programme initiatives being carried out to promote Hong Kong as a prime tourist destination and engage the public in the sports.”
Kathryn Shih, CEO UBS Wealth Management Asia Pacific, said: “Hong Kong is delighted to welcome the star golfers from The European, Asian and US PGA Tours to the UBS Hong Kong Open, the city’s oldest professional sporting event – and, on behalf of UBS, I wish them an enjoyable and successful stay.”