In only its seventh playing, the Macau Open has already become a popular stopover on the Asian Tour and continues to attract some of the world’s top golfers including 10 of the top 20 players on this year’s Asian Tour Order of Merit.
Adding to the attraction in this year’s edition is the fact that the Macau Open prize purse has been increased to US$275,000.
World No. 8 Harrington and Zhang, China’s number one who enjoyed his US Masters debut earlier this month, lead the all-star field that also includes last year’s runner-up Scott Barr of Australia, American Greg Hanrahan, currently fifth on the Asian Tour Order of Merit, Thailand’s Boonchu Ruangkit (No. 6), Scotland’s Simon Yates (No. 7), and Singapore’s Mardan Mamat (No. 8), winner of last month’s Royal Challenge Indian Open.
Irishman Harrington has been a mainstay in the world’s top 10 since 2001 and is a terrific performer in Asia, having won the BMW Asian Open in 2002 and the Omega Hong Kong Open in 2003.
One of European golf’s top performers, Harrington finished second on Europe’s Order of Merit in 2001 and 2002 and third in 2003. Harrington is coming off an excellent build-up with his promising performances in America, including a second-place finish in The Players Championship, a fourth-placed outing in the BellSouth Classic and a T13th at the US Masters, where he also won the famed Par 3 competition and aced the par 3 16th hole at Augusta National in the final round.
Harrington said: “I am very excited to be playing in the Macau Open 2004. I have heard great things about the Open from other professionals and after winning the Omega Hong Kong Open and the BMW Asian Open in Taiwan previously, I am very keen to return to play in Asia.”
Zhang won back-to-back titles in 2001 and 2002 in Macau, the latter following a dramatic five-hole play-off victory over Nick Price of Zimbabwe. He is expected to draw strong support from the enthusiastic local galleries and will be entering the tournament on a high after being invited to contest his first ever major at The US Masters.
Last season, Zhang won the Caltex Masters Presented by Carlsberg in Singapore, beating Ernie Els with a birdie on the final hole. He followed up that victory by winning the Volvo China Open for the first time.
Zhang said: “I am happy to be returning to the Macau Open. As the top-ranked Chinese golfer I am always pleased to play in front of Chinese galleries and the support I received from the crowd in Macau was a big factor in my previous wins there.
“It is a great challenge to become the first player to try for three titles at the Macau Open, especially with the level of competition expected, and I hope that I can play my best golf and add to my titles in China.”
The strong field at the Macau Open will face a championship test at the Macau Golf & Country Club. The scenic Par 71, 6,557 yard course overlooks Macau’s picturesque Hac Sa Beach and the South China Sea.
The course is built along the shoreline and is very much open to weather conditions. Tight fairways and some large undulations add to the challenge of the course, which demands good course management and strong club selection to score well.
This year marks the seventh playing of the Macau Open. Colin Montgomerie won last year’s title while Zhang won in 2002 and 2001. England’s Simon Dyson took the title in 2000, while Lee Westwood, also from England, and Japan’s Saitoshi Oide won the Open in 1999 and 1998 respectively.
About the Macau Open 2004
The Macau Open commemorates its 7th year starting in 1998. It is sponsored by the Macau Sports and Development Board. Participating sponsors include the Macau Government Tourist Group, the Holiday Inn Macau as the official Hotel and supplier sponsors, Macao Coca-Cola Beverage Co., Ltd., Spa Philosophy, Bridgestone as the official ball supplier and Carlsberg as the official beer. The Macau Open has also been held at the Macau Golf and Country Club ever since its inception.
Entries (As at April 22, 2004)
Airil Rizman ZAHARI
Cliff CHAN (A)
Kevin CHAN (A)
LIN Chie Hsiang
POH Eing Chong
POH Eng Wah
Kyi Hla HAN
Uttam Singh MUNDY
Pablo Del OLMO
Johnny SENNA (A)
Soe Kyaw NAING
Morne Janse VAN RENSBURG
Nico Van RENSBURG
Adam Le VESCONTE
LU Wen Teh