Battle of generations set for Hong Kong Open

Tue 03 Dec 2013

Battle of generations set for Hong Kong Open

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Hong Kong December 3: China’s Zhang Lian-wei’s title ambitions will be put to test when he faces a plethora of youth talent that is poised to make the US$1.3 million Hong Kong Open an intriguing affair when it tees off on Thursday.
In what promises to be a classic battle between youth and experience, the Hong Kong Open is well set to ignite golf fervour with its line-up of veterans such as Zhang, defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez and youngsters that include teen sensation Guan Tian-lang, and local hopeful Jason Hak at the Hong Kong Golf Club this week.
A five-time winner on the Asian Tour, Zhang has long been credited for putting China golf on the world map with his success on the region’s premier Tour.
But with the Hong Kong Open title as the only national Open in Greater China not to be featured in his trophy cabinet, the 48-year-old will be looking to land that prized title this week.
“The fact that I’m here shows how much I want to win the Hong Kong Open. I’m chasing after this title and I really want to add the Hong Kong Open to my winning record,” said Zhang, who finished tied 15th last year after opening with two excellent rounds.
Although he is wary of the abundant of youth and talent on show this week, Zhang is proud of how the game has developed and welcomes the challenge.
“Much of my time nowadays is spent developing junior programmes around China and nurturing local talents. I glad the Hong Kong Open is another one of those numerous platforms which gives aspiring and talented young players the chance to compete at the highest level,” said Zhang.
Having earned the distinction of being the first Chinese to win a co-sanctioned Asian Tour and European Tour event in Singapore in 2003, Zhang is also looking forward to renewing his rivalry with players from Europe this week.
“It’s a strong field and hopefully Jimenez can have an off week and give others a chance,” laughed Zhang.
The Chinese veteran is excited that the inaugural EurAsia Cup presented by DRB-HICOM is another opportunity for the best players from both continents to battle for supremacy next year.
“I’m sure there’s going to be lots of rivalry between players from Asia and Europe. We’ve several good players from Asia today and I’m sure it’ll be a good fight in Malaysia,” said Zhang.
Jimenez, who was recently named as the playing captain for Team Europe at next year’s EurAsia Cup, has promised to put up a stout defence of his Hong Kong Open title which he won in record fashion 12 months ago.
The 49-year-old Spaniard icon became the second oldest winner on the Asian Tour and oldest on the European Tour when he claimed his Hong Kong Open hat-trick last year.
This week, he is ready to defy father time yet again at the storied championship which is celebrating its 55th anniversary.
“You win a tournament when you play every hole shot-by-shot and then attack them one-by-one. Hopefully at the end of the week, you have a score that is lower than the rest. I think a win is always tough.  You need to always give 100 per cent and I plan to do that this week,” said Jimenez.
Meanwhile Guan will be hoping to capture the imagination of golf fans worldwide like what he did in April with his debut appearance at the Hong Kong Open.
The 15-year-old inked his place in the history books when he became the youngest player to make the cut in a Major Championship at The Masters this year and will be eager to serve more notice of his precocious talent at the Hong Kong Golf Club.
“I’m going to enjoy the week and shoot some low scores. I don’t feel the pressure at all as I’m still doing the things that I’ve been doing and I feel comfortable,” said Guan.
“There’re lots of great players this week and the field is pretty good. I’ve not set any targets for myself but if I can put four good rounds together, I’ll be happy,” said Guan.
Hak will be hoping to continue his good form following his creditable performance with the Hong Kong Men’s team where they claimed a silver medal at the China’s National Games in September.
The 19-year-old turned professional recently and will be making his fourth appearance at the Hong Kong Open after three impressive appearances as an amateur where he made the cut in 2008, 2009 and 2011.
“I've just been a professional for a couple months and I’m finding life as a professional golfer to be very interesting.  It's always my pleasure to be back here as the Hong Kong Open has always been my favourite tournaments.  There’s still a lot to learn and I want to gain as much experience and enjoy my young professional life,” said Hak.
The Hong Kong Open is Hong Kong’s oldest professional sporting event where its early beginning dates back to 1959. It is co-sanctioned by The European Tour, the Asian Tour and the Hong Kong Golf Association.
The Hong Kong Open is the third event of The 2014 Race to Dubai, and one of the last on the 2013 Asian Tour schedule.
Ends.
About the Asian Tour
In 2013, the Asian Tour will celebrate a momentous milestone with its 10th season. As the official sanctioning body for professional golf in Asia, the Asian Tour leads the development of golf across the region, enhancing the careers of its members while maintaining a commitment to the integrity of the game. The Asian Tour, through its membership of the International Federation of PGA Tours, is the only recognised pan-Asian professional golf tour in Asia. This unique feature positions the Asian Tour at the pinnacle of professional golf in Asia; providing its events with Official World Ranking status. Tour Partners include Abacus (Official Apparel Partner), Inetol Headwear (Official Headwear Supplier), Saxo Capital Markets (Official Statistics Partner), Singha Beer (Official Beer), Srixon (Official Ball), Subway (Official Quick Service Restaurant), Starwood Hotels and Resorts (Official Hotels and Resorts) and Rolex (Official Timekeeper). The Asian Tour has offices in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. Also, visit us at www.asiantour.com, www.facebook.com/asiantourgolf, www.twitter.com/asiantourgolf, www.youtube.com/theasiantour and www.weibo.com/asiantourgolf.