November 10, 2006 – Top stars from the Asian Tour are ready to go toe-to-toe with Europe’s best at next week’s US$2 million UBS Hong Kong Open.
Indian ace Jeev Milkha Singh will lead a powerful contingent of players aiming to end Asia’s barren run in the showpiece tournament.
Korea’s Kang Wook Soon was the last Asian to take the title, in 1998, but hopes are high that the continent can produce a winner when the tournament tees off on Thursday (November 16) at the Hong Kong Golf Club in Fanling.
Jeev will be one of five Asian Tour regulars in the field with European Tour titles to their names, the others being Thai duo Thongchai Jaidee and Thaworn Wiratchant, former Chinese No.1 Zhang Lianwei and Singapore’s Mardan Mamat.
In addition, Korean star KJ Choi, playing at Fanling on a sponsor’s invite, has four US PGA titles and the 2003 Linde German Masters on his CV. He will be aiming to go one better than 12 months ago when he finished joint runner-up, one shot behind winner Colin Montgomerie.
The European Tour began co-sanctioning the Hong Kong Open with the Asian Tour in 2001, leading to a significant rise in the standard of competition. The past three winners have all been giants of the European game – Montgomerie, Miguel Angel Jiménez (2004) and Padraig Harrington (2003).
The tournament has also hit new heights since UBS took over title sponsorship last year, with prize money now two-and-a-half times what it was in 2004.
Jeev, currently enjoying the best year of his career with two European Tour victories to his name, said he was looking forward to playing at Fanling again.
“I’m really excited about coming to Hong Kong and playing,” he said. “UBS have done a great job by increasing the prize money in the last couple of years. The total purse is now US$2 million, which is excellent news for the players and makes for a really exciting tournament.”
In an intriguing subplot, Jeev can also wrap up the Asian Tour UBS Order of Merit title at Fanling. With just two tournaments remaining, he leads Thailand’s Prom Meesawat by US$118,237.
Prom, winner of the SK Telecom Open in Seoul last May, will be looking for a high placing at Fanling while hoping that Jeev slips up, so taking the UBS Order of Merit race down to the wire in the season’s final event, the Volvo Masters of Asia in Bangkok next month.
The field for the 48th UBS Hong Kong Open – promoted by Parallel Media Group – includes defending champion Montgomerie of Scotland and former Major winners Retief Goosen of South Africa and Michael Campbell of New Zealand.
England’s Simon Dyson and Swede Johan Edfors, both multiple winners on the European Tour this year, are also in the line-up, as is Irish Ryder Cup star Paul McGinley.