Choi to Lead Region’s Drive in Bmw Asian Open

Choi KjMay 1: Korean star Choi Kyung-ju, fresh from a third-place finish at the US Masters, home hero Zhang Lian-wei and current Asian Tour number one Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand will lead the Asian charge in the BMW Asian Open at Tomson Golf Club in Shanghai from May 13-16.

The US$1.5 million tournament is jointly sanctioned by the Asian and European Tours and the China Golf Association.

Other big names who will head full speed to the Middle Kingdom include Australian great, Greg Norman, Germany??s Alex Cejka and defending champion Padraig Harrington, who won in Taiwan two years ago. The BMW Asian Open was not staged last season.

Choi challenged for his first Major title at Augusta National last month before finishing behind winner Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els. He played his way into history by shooting an outward 30 in the second day and a rare eagle two on the 11th during the final round, both achievements which have been recorded only twice previously at the fabled Masters.

A two-time winner on the US PGA Tour, the Korean will spend two weeks in Asia, where he will also defend his title at the SK Telecom Open, the 12th leg of this season’s Asian Tour, on home soil the week after the BMW Asian Open.

Padraig HarringtonZhang is a household name in China, having achieved several notable victories across the world. He beat Ernie Els for a famous win at the Caltex Masters title in Singapore last season and became the first Chinese player to tee up at the Masters after receiving a special invite.

Thongchai could be another likely contender following his outstanding start to the new season. He won the Carlsberg Malaysian Open, an event jointly sanctioned by Asia and Europe in February, and was a runner-up in the 2001 BMW Asian Open.

India’s Jyoti Randhawa will also tee it up at Tomson Golf Club, having qualified for his third British Open last month. Randhawa was also second in the BMW Asian Open in Taiwan two years ago.

The 49-year-old Norman, better known as “The Shark”, will be one of the star attractions for the Chinese galleries. The former world number one has won 86 tournaments worldwide and has not played in Asia for many years.

Harrington, currently ranked eighth in the world, is a terrific performer in Asia and will be hoping to defend his title successfully. Last December, he won the Omega Hong Kong Open in 2003 after holing a 12-foot putt at the 72nd hole and has achieved numerous top-10s in other Asian events.

The inaugural BMW Asian Open winner, Jarmo Sandelin, and in-form Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez, winner of this year’s Johnnie Walker Classic and Algarve Open de Portugal, have also signed up for the cash-rich event and both are tipped to shine as well in Shanghai.