Colin Montgomerie will tee off in this week’s UBS Hong Kong Open in the belief that tournaments in Asia are harder to win than ever before.
Globe-trotting Monty says Asian golf has made “massive” improvements both on and off the course in recent years.
“There’s been a dramatic increase in standards over the last 10 or 15 years and I give a lot of credit to Asian golf for achieving these changes,” said the Scot, who has won tournaments all over the world, including China, Singapore and Macau, in recent years.
“Asian players are now competing with European players on a level playing field. It’s certainly a lot more difficult to come over here and win a tournament than it was a few years ago.
“I think there has also been an improvement outside the ropes. We all know that golf is hugely popular here in Asia. The fans here are much more knowledgeable about golf these days and really appreciate seeing good players in action.”
Montgomerie’s remarks were echoed by Korea’s KJ Choi, the world’s top-ranked Asian player and one of his rivals in the UBS Hong Kong Open, which tees off at the Hong Kong Golf Club in Fanling on Thursday.
“I think there are a lot of strong young Asian players coming through and you will see more of them being a success,” said United States-based Choi, a three-time winner on the PGA Tour.
He said the European and Asian Tours’ policy of co-sanctioning events like the UBS Hong Kong Open was a huge help to Asian players.
“It gives them a lot of opportunities to get into the bigger arena and compete against the other great players from around the world,” he said.
Montgomerie and Choi are among the favourites for the UBS Hong Kong Open, one of the oldest and most prestigious tournaments in Asia.
Strong competition will come from defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez of Spain, Ryder Cup duo Thomas Bjorn and Paul Casey and current Asian Tour Order of Merit leader Thaworn Wiratchant of Thailand.
Montgomerie is competing in Hong Kong just weeks after winning a record-breaking eighth European Tour Order of Merit crown.
With his status as European No.1 restored, a string of Ryder Cup wins on his record and an astonishing 41 tournament victories to his name, the Scot was asked if 2006 would be the year to finally win his first Major.
But he insisted landing a Major was more of an obsession for the media than him. “The press make more of it than I do,” he said. “All I can do is go out and play my game and if I win a Major, I win a Major, but I don’t give it too much thought. I’m very happy with my career and what I’ve achieved.”