World No.4 Paul Casey and the man just one place below him in the rankings, Lee Westwood, have both been confirmed for next month’s UBS Hong Kong Open.
The English pair will be joined in the US$2.5 million showpiece by compatriot Ian Poulter – currently 21st in the world – and Northern Irish star Darren Clarke.
The quartet – all Ryder Cup winners – boast an astonishing 49 European Tour titles between them.
They join a stellar UBS Hong Kong Open line-up that already includes Asia’s first Major winner, Yang Yong Eun of Korea, defending champion Lin Wen Tang of Chinese Taipei and the man he beat in last year’s unforgettable playoff duel, brilliant Northern Irish youngster Rory McIlroy.
The 2009 UBS Hong Kong Open will be staged at the Hong Kong Golf Club in Fanling from 12-15 November.
As world No.4, Casey will be the highest ranked player to appear in the historic tournament since the Official World Golf Ranking system was introduced in 1986.
“The UBS Hong Kong Open is not only a wonderful and historic tournament in its own right, it is also pivotal in the 2009 Race To Dubai, so it promises to be a very exciting week,” said Casey, who has 10 European Tour victories.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to win two European Tour events in China in the past so hopefully I can reproduce that sort of form for the galleries in Hong Kong.
“I know the UBS Hong Kong Open organisers are putting together a great field so I think the fans can look forward to some tremendous golf.”
Casey enjoyed a sensational first half of 2009 with three huge victories in the Abu Dhabi Championship, the Shell Houston Open – his first win on the US PGA Tour – and the European Tour’s flagship event, the BMW PGA Championship.
He was sidelined by a rib injury at the beginning of August but has been given the all-clear to return to action next week.
Westwood has enjoyed plenty of success in Asia with victories in Japan, Malaysia and Macau but will be making his first appearance in Hong Kong.
His success at last week’s Portugal Masters took his European Tour victory total to an astonishing 19 and elevated him to the position of world No.5.
It also lifted him above McIlroy into top spot in the European Tour’s Race To Dubai with season earnings of €2,241,940.
“I’m delighted to be playing in the UBS Hong Kong Open for the first time,” said Westwood. “I’ve heard great things about the tournament from the other players and it promises to be a fantastic week.
“I understand Fanling is a tight, old-style course that places a lot of emphasis on accuracy so hopefully it will suit my game and I can put on a good show for the fans. Asia has been kind to me in the past and it would be wonderful if I could post another victory in the region.”
With Westwood leading the Race To Dubai ahead of McIlroy, and Casey still in fourth place despite his injury layoff, the stage is set for a showdown between the trio in Hong Kong.
Poulter, who has enjoyed success in Asia before with a win in Japan two years ago, will come to Hong Kong in search of his eighth European Tour victory.
“It’s been five years since I played in Hong Kong so I’m looking forward to returning,” he said. “I remember it as a great city, one of the best stops on the European Tour, and the tournament organisation and hospitality are fantastic.
“I know winning will be tough but, hopefully, I’ll be playing well enough to be in the mix on the back nine on Sunday.”
Clarke has won 13 times on the European Tour and came agonisingly close to the Hong Kong Open title six years ago when he finished equal third behind winner Padraig Harrington.
“I have fond memories of Fanling from when I played there in 2003,” he said. “I had a great tournament but unfortunately Padraig was a little too strong for all of us that week. If I can find the same level of play this time, I’ll be very happy.”
Chi-Won Yoon, Chairman and CEO of UBS Asia Pacific, hailed the latest star player confirmations.
“Hong Kong golf fans will be thrilled to hear that Paul Casey, the world No.4, Lee Westwood, twice third in the Majors this year, and Ian Poulter will be joining us for the 2009 UBS Hong Kong Open,” he said.
“All three are among today’s top golfers and will give players such as YE Yang, Rory McIlroy and defending champion Lin Wen Tang a run for their money next month at Fanling.”
The UBS Hong Kong Open – Hong Kong’s oldest professional sporting event, having started in 1959 – will once again be co-sanctioned by the European and Asian Tours.
The tournament has been won by nine Major champions: Peter Thomson, Kel Nagle, Orville Moody, Greg Norman, Ian Woosnam, Bernhard Langer, Tom Watson, José María Olazábal and Harrington.
This year’s UBS Hong Kong Open is the penultimate ranking event on the European Tour schedule, taking place a week before the season-ending Dubai World Championship.
With only the top 60 golfers on the European Tour money list eligible to play in Dubai, the Hong Kong event has assumed even greater significance with players scrambling to secure their spot in the season finale.
The Open is the third-last event counting towards the Order of Merit on the 2009 Asian Tour calendar.