Masters Champion Danny Willett was joined by Ryder Cup heavyweights Ian Poulter and Patrick Reed as well as Chinese star Liang Wen-chong and local talent Humphrey Wong to officially launch the UBS Hong Kong Open.
Willett became the first European to win the Masters since José Maria Olazábal in 1999 with a brilliant final-round performance which saw him overtake Jordan Spieth at the top of the leaderboard to secure his first Major championship trophy.
The Englishman, fresh from a two-week break, is anticipating a superb week at the Hong Kong Golf Club. He said:
“We played a few holes today and the course is in really good shape. You’ve got to put your ball on the fairway to be able to spin it into the greens. It’s just a good, solid golf course. You look at the winners that you’ve had around here over the last ten years, and you know, there are some stellar names and great players that have won around this golf course.
“I think that just goes to show how strong the course is. You’ve got to play some good golf and put your ball in the fairway, and obviously roll in a few putts. If you do that come the end of the week, you’re going to have a good chance.”
Poulter, one of Europe’s greatest Ryder Cup players, won the UBS Hong Kong Open in 2010 – one of 16 victories around the globe for the 40-year-old, who will bring his own brand of vibrant passion to the Hong Kong Golf Club this week. The Englishman endured a near six-month injury lay-off in 2016 and he is delighted to be back in action and feels ready to win again.
He said: “My confidence level is always there. I’m not half-empty guy. I’m a half-full guy. So that’s never going to leave. I’m as ambitious as I’ve always been and I always look to perform well. I always want to put pressure on myself and I always demand big things. So that will never change. I am really looking forward to this week because we are back at a golf course that I love and that gives me confidence. If I can make a few more putts this week I think I have a great chance to pick that trophy up on Sunday.”
After an inspired performance at The Ryder Cup, American Reed is hoping to challenge for his second European Tour title the UBS Hong Kong Open. The 26-year-old has risen to number eight on the Official World Golf Ranking and is looking to justify his status as one of the pre-tournament favourites to lift the title.
“The golf course here is one of the best short golf courses I’ve ever played. It’s not long at all. It’s short. It’s really narrow. It gives you all different kinds of shots you need to hit. It really tests your game in a lot of different ways, and a lot of different unique ways, rather than other golf courses. It’s a fun place. I’m so excited to be back and hopefully put on a good show this week.
“My aggressive style of play cost me the tournament last year. The biggest thing you can’t do is you can’t make the careless errors. There’s a lot of times last year where being the aggressive nature that I am in golf, I went for a lot of things I shouldn’t have and it cost a lot of bogeys for me. It was definitely the difference of winning the tournament and finishing third.”
Ms Amy Lo, Head of UBS Wealth Management Greater China and Country Head of UBS Hong Kong said: “The UBS Hong Kong Open has attracted another world-class field and is shaping up as one of the most competitive – and most compelling – tournaments in the event’s 58-year history.
“This year’s tournament is being supported by a variety of community initiatives to help make the UBS Hong Kong Open, open for all in Hong Kong, including offering free admission on Thursday and Friday – and throughout the week for those 21 and under. I am confident that all of the players will be well received by some very large and enthusiastic galleries and with the hospitality for which Hong Kong is renowned.”
The Honorable Jeffrey Lam, Chairman of the Mega Events Fund Assessment Committee, said: “The Mega Events Fund is pleased to once again support the historic UBS Hong Kong Open, which helps promote Hong Kong as a top travel destination and showcase the city’s capability in hosting a world-class international sporting event. With our funding support, the tournament has attracted the world’s leading golfers to our city and cemented its reputation as one of the most prestigious in Asia. We are also delighted to know that the tournament has further enhanced its publicity and community outreach programmes, attracting both locals and visitors to come and witness the exciting performance of these star players. I wish this year’s Hong Kong Open every success and all our players and spectators a memorable and enjoyable week.”
Supported by the Hong Kong Mega Events Fund, the UBS Hong Kong Open is the longest-running sporting event in Asia and is tri-sanctioned by the Asian Tour, European Tour and Hong Kong Golf Association. In keeping with the organizers’ commitment to enhance accessibility to the tournament, entry to the first two rounds on Thursday 8 and Friday 9 December will be free of charge. Visitors under 21 years can enjoy free entry to the Saturday and Sunday as well.
The initiative follows on the success of last year’s free Thursday entry when over 10,000 fans came to see some of the world’s premier golfers in action, triggering record attendance of 42,099 spectators.