Organisers confirmed today that Faldo, Woosnam and Bjorn, who between them have won 96 international titles, will challenge for honours in the US$300,000 event which will be the ninth leg of the 2004 Asian Tour season.
“We are delighted to announce the addition of three great champions, Nick Faldo, Thomas Bjorn and Ian Woosnam in the field for the Volkswagen Masters – China,” said Mr. Klaus – Dieter Schadewald, director of Volkswagen Brand.
“Their presence will certainly enhance the quality of our tournament and ensure that this inaugural event will be a great success. I am sure the trio will arrive in China with a determination to win the title.”
Earlier, it was announced that seven-time European Tour number one Colin Montgomerie and Fredrik Jacobson, the world number 21, will challenge the best players from the Asian Tour, led by home hero Zhang Lian-wei, who is fresh from his maiden Masters appearance last week. However, Mr Schadewald said Jacobson has had to withdraw to be with his pregnant wife.
Montgomerie will return to Asia in confident mood after snaring the Caltex Masters Presented by Carlsberg title, jointly sanctioned by the Asian and European Tours, in Singapore last month to end a 16-month title drought on the European circuit.
The Volkswagen-sponsored event is organised by China Golf Association and promoted by IMG.
“I’m looking forward to playing in the Volkswagen Masters – China. It will be tremendous to play in the first event where the country is enjoying a boom in golf,” said Bjorn, winner of seven titles on the European Tour.
After ending his 2003 season with victory in Japan and a third placing in Hong Kong, Bjorn, the best golfer to emerge from Denmark, got his new year off to a flying start. With new equipment in his golf bag, he finished tied second in the Johnnie Walker Classic in Thailand in January after leading for much of his first tournament of 2004.
Two weeks later, the Ryder Cup stalwart produced a joint fourth finish at the Buick Invitational in America, where he said he will spend at least half of his playing time there this year.
The 33-year-old Bjorn came agonisingly close to winning his first Major last July when he led the British Open with three holes remaining at Royal St George’s before being overtaken by surprise winner Ben Curtis of the United States. Bjorn has also won twice in Asia, winning the Dunlop Phoenix in 1999 and 2003.
Faldo is equally excited to take the trip to the Far East where he has triumphed on several occasions. “It’ll be an exciting trip. I’ll be flying into Beijing with the intention of winning the Volkswagen Masters ?V China,” said the 46-year-old Faldo.
The Englishman was ranked world number one in the 1990s when he ruled the golf scene. He won three US Masters Green Jacket and also just as many titles in the British Open. Faldo still holds the record of being the leading points earner for Europe in the Ryder Cup and is still harbouring hopes of featuring in this year’s clash against the US in Oakland Hills Country Club.
Woosnam accepted a late invitation to replace Jacobson to play in the Volkswagen Masters – China. The slightly built Welshman is a tremendous ambassador for the game and is looking forward to returning to China where he has designed several courses.
Known as “Woosie” on the European Tour, he is a former world number one and won the Masters in 1991. He has also won the World Match Play Championship at Wentworth across three decades and has represented Wales in the World Cup 17 times. In Asia he has won the Hong Kong Open (1987), the Johnnie Walker Classic (1996) and the Hyundai Motor Masters in Seoul (1997).
“It is with great regret that Fredrik Jacobson has had to withdraw from the Volkswagen Masters – China. His wife is in the final month of pregnancy and due to some medical complications Freddie wishes to remain with her until she and the baby are in good health.
“However in Ian Woosnam, we will have in the field a very fierce competitor who has established himself as an international golfer,” said Mr Schadewald.