Major winners Mark O’Meara and Ben Curtis have been added to the strongest field ever assembled for the UBS Hong Kong Open.
The American duo – both former British Open champions – will be making their debuts in the US$2.5 million showpiece.
They are joined by South African ace Rory Sabbatini – who has five PGA Tour titles to his name – and reigning European Tour Order of Merit champion Robert Karlsson, plus recent Hong Kong winners Colin Montgomerie and Miguel ángel Jiménez.
“It is, far and away, the best field ever seen in Hong Kong,” said Martin Capstick, managing director of the tournament promoter, Parallel Media Group.
“The latest player confirmations, together with those already unveiled, mean we have 14 of the world’s top 50 according to the Official World Golf Ranking, which is unprecedented.
“We have 40 of the leading 60 players in the European Tour’s Race To Dubai – including four of the top six – and all the top 10 in the Asian Tour’s Order of Merit.”
The latest players to be announced join a star-studded line-up that already includes world No.4 Paul Casey, world No.5 Lee Westwood – the current Race To Dubai leader – and Asia’s first Major winner, Yang Yong Eun.
The 2009 UBS Hong Kong Open will be staged at the Hong Kong Golf Club in Fanling from 12-15 November.
O’Meara has 16 PGA Tour victories to his name and enjoyed an incredible year in 1998 when he won both the Masters Tournament and the British Open and then beat his close friend Tiger Woods in the final of the World Match Play Championship.
Aside from his British Open triumph, achieved at Royal Birkdale in Lancashire, he has three other European Tour titles to his name, the last being the Dubai Desert Classic in 2004.
“Over my career, I have always prided myself on playing all over the world, so to finally make my debut in the UBS Hong Kong Open is very special,” said O’Meara.
“I have heard from a number of my friends on Tour how great the tournament is and, since I already love the city of Hong Kong, I’m very excited about the week.
“I’m also going to try my hardest to get an American name back on that trophy – I understand the last US player to win was 14 years ago, so I’ll be shooting to change that!”
Curtis astonished the golf world in 2003 when, as a virtual unknown, he won the British Open at Royal St George’s in Kent – so becoming the first player since Francis Ouimet at the 1913 US Open to win a Major at his first attempt.
He also jumped from 396th to 35th in the Official World Golf Ranking, the biggest single leap since the ranking system began in 1986.
Since then he has consolidated his status as an elite player with two victories on the PGA Tour and was a member of the United States’ victorious Ryder Cup team last year.
“I am delighted to be making my debut in November at the UBS Hong Kong Open,” said Curtis.
“As a member of the European Tour, I have always enjoyed competing in the great events around the world, and I know the history of this event is very strong.
“All you have to do is take a look at the strength of field which UBS has assembled this year to know how respected this tournament is.
“And its place on the schedule is very important as well, with this being the final chance to qualify for the Dubai World Championship. I need to make up some ground on that list so I’m looking forward to a great week at the UBS.
“I’m sure the sports fans in Hong Kong will enjoy some fantastic golf during the week.”
Other stars confirmed for the UBS Hong Kong Open include 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, who is currently No.18 in the world.
In addition, English ace Ian Poulter – who leapt up to world No.15 with his victory in last week’s Singapore Open – and Northern Irish star Darren Clarke, a 13-time winner on the European Tour, are in the line-up.
Also vying for honours will be brilliant New Zealand teenager Danny Lee, who became the youngest winner in European Tour history when, aged 18 years and 213 days, he won last February’s Johnnie Walker Classic while still an amateur.
An ultra-strong Asian contingent will be led by Korean icon Yang and the man currently second to him in the continent’s rankings, India’s Jeev Milkha Singh, a player with three European Tour victories to his name.
Also confirmed are Thai ace Thongchai Jaidee, who leads the Asian Tour’s Order of Merit with earnings of US$937,658, and Chinese No.1 Liang Wenchong, presently second in the money list and runner-up to Poulter in Singapore.
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 Padraig 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.
Players to watch at the UBS Hong Kong Open
? PAUL CASEY (England): World No.4, currently third in the Race To Dubai and a 10-time winner on the European Tour.
? YANG YONG EUN (Korea): Asia’s first Major winner, having beaten Tiger Woods to the PGA Championship title last August.
? MARK O’MEARA (US): Former Masters, British Open and World Match Play champion with 16 PGA Tour victories.
? LEE WESTWOOD (England): World No.5, currently leading the Race To Dubai and a 19-time winner on the European Tour.
? RORY McILROY (Northern Ireland): Presently third in the Race To Dubai, world No.18 and UBS Hong Kong Open runner-up last year.
? IAN POULTER (England): World No.15 and recently victorious at the Singapore Open, his eighth European Tour victory.
? LIN WEN TANG (Chinese Taipei): Reigning UBS Hong Kong Open champion and recent winner of the Taiwan Masters.
? ROBERT KARLSSON (Sweden): Reigning European Tour Order of Merit champion and joint second in the 2007 UBS Hong Kong Open.
? RORY SABBATINI (SA): Five-time winner on the PGA Tour, including the 2009 HP Byron Nelson Championship.
? BEN CURTIS (US): The 2003 British Open champion, two PGA Tour victories and member of victorious 2008 American Ryder Cup team.
? COLIN MONTGOMERIE (Scotland): Eight European Tour Order of Merit titles, 31 European Tour victories, 2005 UBS Hong Kong Open champion.
? MIGUEL áNGEL JIMéNEZ (Spain): Total of 15 European Tour victories, including Hong Kong titles in 2004 and 2007.