KJ Choi will tee off in this week’s UBS Hong Kong Open hoping the famous city’s unique buzz can inspire him to victory.
“Every year I come back here, I enjoy the harbour and the magnificent night view,” said the Korean ace.
“As you are walking around the harbour terminal area, you can’t miss the downtown view. I want to just capture the energy of Hong Kong and apply it to my game this week.”
Choi, the world No.11, is one of the favourites for the UBS Hong Kong Open, which begins on Thursday at the Hong Kong Golf Club in Fanling.
The stellar field also includes two-time US Open winner Retief Goosen, 2003 Masters champion Mike Weir and PGA Tour stars Stuart Appleby and Trevor Immelman.
Leading golfers from the European Tour are present while nine of the top 10 players on the Asian Tour’s UBS Order of Merit are also in the mix.
“Every year, I feel the tournament is getting better and better and the depth of the field is getting stronger,” said Choi, 39.
“It looks like it’s getting interesting this week. As usual, I’ll be taking it hole by hole and will try my best.”
The Korean star has been based for the past few years in the US – where he has won six times on the PGA Tour – and said he enjoys returning to play in Asia.
“Whenever I come back to Asia, I feel like I’m at home,” he said. “I have a lot of friends here, familiar faces, and the overall atmosphere makes me comfortable.
“When I first went to the US, those were the things I missed and language was a problem, too. But after eight years in US, now I feel I’ve adjusted well.
“I feel comfortable touring in the US but it’s those good memories in Asia that make me look forward to coming back here.”
Choi finished joint second – a stroke behind winner Colin Montgomerie – at the 2005 UBS Hong Kong Open and likes his chances of going one better in this week’s US$2.25 million showpiece.
“I’m not going to dwell on past performances here. Luckily this week, the weather is great, which will help me focus better. I’m looking forward to a good week,” he said.
“The course is tight this year. The greens are very soft, so putting is going to be important. It’s a matter of how the players attack the green on the second shot, that’s going to be the key here.”
Goosen, meanwhile, will be aiming to make amends for missing the cut at Fanling a year ago.
“Last year, I just never really got anything going – this year, hopefully, will be a bit different,” said the 38-year-old South African.
“I’m looking to win, that’s the main thing. This year has been a little bit up and down. I won early in the year [the Qatar Masters] and did well at Augusta [joint second in the Masters Tournament] but from there on it has been a bit of a struggle.
“The swing changes I’ve been working on have made things a little difficult, but then the last few events I felt I was starting to hit the ball pretty nicely. So now it’s just a case of trying to make a few putts and getting on a roll.”
Goosen, a truly global golfer who has played and won all over the world, said Asian golf was continuing to go from strength to strength.
“We know golf is growing fast over here, especially in China, so there are a lot of great players coming through now. We’ve had a couple of guys winning on the European Tour and the Asian Tour is stronger, too,” he said.
“It doesn’t matter where you are in the world now, you have to play well to win.”
Other top contenders at Fanling this week include Ryder Cup stars David Howell and Paul McGinley, 2006 UBS Hong Kong Open winner José Manuel Lara, and former Hong Kong champions Miguel Angel Jiménez and Simon Dyson.
A strong contingent from the Asian Tour will be spearheaded by current UBS Order of Merit leader Liang Wenchong.
Six-time Major winner Nick Faldo is making a rare playing appearance as he takes on an “ambassadorial” role as a guest of UBS.
November 13, 2007 – The UBS Hong Kong Open is again jointly sanctioned by the European and Asian Tours.
The Open was first staged in 1959 – making it the territory’s oldest professional sporting event – and has been held every year at the Hong Kong Golf Club.