THE MODERATOR: Thank you for coming. May I first invite Mr. David Hui, Chairman of the Hong Kong Golf Association on stage to deliver a speech.
DAVID HUI: A quick welcome to all of the players here today and all of the other players who are probably busy practising now hopefully. The weather looks fantastic and we are all hopeful of four fantastic days of golf like last year.
On behalf of the Hong Kong Golf Association, we would like to thank obviously UBS for their support of the event. It’s their seventh year of continued support and obviously the government for the Mega Events Fun, and thank you for their invaluable support this year which has really us helped push the event up to another level yet again. We have six fantastic players here, who are here to sort of promote the event, and I look forward to hearing their answers to your questions.
THE MODERATOR: Secretary of Mega Assessment Committee and Assistant Commissioner of Tourism, Vincent Fung.
VINCENT FUNG: Hello, distinguished golfers, ladies and gentlemen, first of all a very warm welcome to everybody who travelled the distance to Hong Kong.
The Mega Events Fund of the Hong Kong Government is proud to support this well‑known, world‑class event for the first time, and we believe that with the support of the Mega Events Fund, we should be able to bring this event to new height, and we can see that more there are and more top‑class level events coming to Hong Kong.
So, in addition to the Hong Kong Open, the Hong Kong Government, and Hong Kong Tourism Board has been supporting various mega events in the coming months, like during Christmastime, the Hong Kong WinterFest, and on the 1st of January, we shall have the Dragon and Lion Dance, and during the Chinese New Year period, we will have other mega events ongoing.
While playing golf, try to enjoy the beautiful scenery of Hong Kong and also the good food, shopping and all of the good things in Hong Kong, and enjoy your stay here. Thank you very much.
THE MODERATOR: Last but not least we invite Mr. Allen Lo, Country Head and Chief Executive of UBS Hong Kong branch.
ALLEN LO: The good thing of being the last speaker is that probably I don’t have to say a lot after what my two friends have said before. Good afternoon and welcome again to the press conference to launch the 2011 UBS Hong Kong Open and to some of our returning players here.
We are very honoured and very, very pleased to have assembled such a distinguished field of players this year, and certainly with the calibre of players, 2011 should be able to receive the best field of players in the 53‑year history of the UBS Hong Kong Open.
I would also like to thank Mr. Vincent Fung, the Assistant Commissioner of Hong Kong Tourism. This is the first year in which the U BS Hong Kong Open has received support from the Hong Kong Government Mega Events Fund. Now, I think the support from the Hong Kong government is quite important to signify the importance of the Hong Kong Open in Hong Kong, and also in Asia. It recognises the potential of the previous Hong Kong Opens as an increasingly important sporting international event in Hong Kong.
Now, we would like to thank Mr. Fung and the Hong Kong Government for their support. UBS also recognises this potential, when we started sponsoring the Hong Kong Open in 2005, we have worked very hard to increase the media coverage, in particular with the televised media coverage.
Now, in the seven years that UBS has sponsored this event, we have increased the tournament prize money as we have mentioned before to 2.75 million U.S. dollars. This level of commitment is certainly quite necessary in order to make the Hong Kong Open remain competitive in today’s very crowded golf calendar in Asia.
With that, I would really like to thank the Hong Kong Golf Association and The European Tour and the Asian Tour for their support and also the volunteers and the staff of the Hong Kong Golf Club for their hard work for the next few days.
With, that I wish all of the players all the best and we look forward for a very exciting event this week. Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: So right now we are entering our star champions’ chitchat session, and later on will be followed by the media Q&A session. Of course, I would like to have an expert to help me chair this chitchat session. So, ladies and gentlemen, please help me welcome Mr. Michael Gibbons, Press Officer of The European Tour to host this chitchat session please (whistling and roaring applause from the stage).
RORY McILROY: Come for a chitchat?
MICHAEL GIBBONS: Before we get into our Q&A, I think we should get a few quick comments from all of the guys on the stage here.
Ian, we would like to start with you as defending champion, if you would take us back to your victory and your memories of such a great victory in the UBS Hong Kong Open.
IAN POULTER: Fond memories. This is always a fun vent to come and play golf, and one on a golf course in which I love to play, and which all of the guys do. It’s different to what we play week‑in, week‑out. It’s a little shorter than normal. It’s pretty tight. But it’s very fun.
The reason why we all love to come here and play golf is because we can make plenty of birdies on the golf course. It’s fun to be able to get some confidence, make birdies, and shoot low rounds of golf. And that is what this golf course gives us, plus, also, great hotels, great food and a fun city to be in.
So it’s good to be back. Try and defend my title and I know the guys are going to press hard to try and put their name on the trophy.
MICHAEL GIBBONS: Just after last week’s World Cup performance alongside Mr. Rose here.
IAN POULTER: Yeah, last week was fun on Sunday. I don’t think it was fun on Thursday, Friday, Saturday to be honest. Team England found themselves too many shots behind and I think it was too little, too late in the end. It was a great score on Sunday. Justin and myself played some fantastic golf; 9‑under par in foursomes is pretty good.
I think overall, we are a little bit disappointed that we came up a couple short.
MICHAEL GIBBONS: Thank you, Ian. I think we’ll go to your partner next. Justin, I believe it’s your first time in Hong Kong.
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, it’s my first time to play the tournament. I spent two nights in Hong Kong in the past, and was very excited about coming back to the city. As Ian said, great hotel, great food, great shopping and certainly want to make the most of it and get a chance to sort of spends some time in the city away from the golf course, too.
Everything so far has been fantastic. Played 18 holes today, and like the guys say, course is in great condition. The greens look like they could get as firm as they want them out there, which is always a challenge, and I think we like to play golf courses that have firm greens and they are rolling very, very true. I’m excited for the week ahead.
MICHAEL GIBBONS: Done any shopping yet?
JUSTIN ROSE: No, not yet. I’ve done some scouting out where I want to go, you know; time efficient.
MICHAEL GIBBONS: I think we’ll go from England to Korea now. Y.E., some thoughts from last week?
Y.E. YANG: No, it’s my third time consecutive to Hong Kong. Always good to be here; great food, great city.
Last two years, I haven’t played as I’ve expected, so this year, I really want to take that trophy away from Ian.
MICHAEL GIBBONS: Any thoughts, Ian?
IAN POULTER: Bring it on. (Laughter).
MICHAEL GIBBONS: I think we’ll leave that one there. We’ll stay in Asia.
Jason a welcome back, I’m sure you all remember Jason as the youngest player in European Tour history to make a cut at 14. As an old man of 17, give us your expectations of the week.
JASON HAK: I don’t really have much to expect. I just try to learn as much as I can from all of my role models right beside me right here. And just felt great coming back here. Again, appreciate being able to come back here and getting a sponsor’s exemption from UBS and Hong Kong Golf Association. A lot of appreciation, and just try to do my best.
MICHAEL GIBBONS: Thank you, Jason. Mr. Harrington, I believe next. Now you need to scope your answer short (pointing to translator.
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: (Laughing).
MICHAEL GIBBONS: Your thoughts on the week ahead, was it 2003 champion here?
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: I won here in 2003 and finished second 2004.
I think like everybody else, every player comes here likes the golf course. So nobody has an advantage this week. There’s nobody going around thinking, oh, this course isn’t for me. It’s a really good golf course, great city to come to. I think also, the weather at this time of the year, I think this is really the place to be playing golf. There’s probably not a place around the world that you’d rather be playing a tournament than Hong Kong this week.
The golf course is in great condition, and it suits everybody. There’s nobody here that ‑‑ it’s not like if you were a short hitter or a long hitter that the course suits one in particular. Everybody can play this golf course. And it’s a really good test. A lot of elevated greens, so that forces you to have to hit the fairways ‑‑ (looking up) I am rambling on, aren’t I.
MICHAEL GIBBONS: Yes, very much so.
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: Definitely a tournament to be enjoyed.
MICHAEL GIBBONS: And how is your own game?
PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON: I’m happy with my game. I’ve been happy with it all year to be honest but haven’t been getting the most out of it and I seem to have maybe turned the corner with that.
MICHAEL GIBBONS: Man in the middle, how are we?
RORY McILROY: Very well.
MICHAEL GIBBONS: Second twice here, I believe.
RORY McILROY: Yeah.
MICHAEL GIBBONS: Is this your year?
RORY McILROY: I certainly hope so. You know, I’ve come close a couple of times. I was probably involved, for me, one of the best
experiences I’ve ever had on a golf course here in 2008 in the playoff with Lin Wen‑tang. It was getting dark and we both hit a couple of incredible shots from the trees and most of all, it was just a really fun playoff to be a part of. Didn’t quite work out for me, but I finished second that year. I finished second in 2009 to Gregory Bourdy and last year ended up finishing sixth I think.
You know, Hong Kong is a tournament for me that is one of the first on my schedule every year. I absolutely love this place. I’ve loved it from the moment I got here in 2005 I think when I played the Faldo Series at Fanling and I’ve come back every year since. It’s one of my favourite places in the world, and I’m really going to enjoy myself this week.
Q. It’s been quite an amazing year for you. Can you reflect a bit on the changes you’ve gone through in the past 12 months since we’ve seen you here before in your game and in yourself as a character, how much you’ve grown perhaps?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, a lot. It’s been an interesting year for me to say the least, from having a great chance at the start of the year at Augusta to win my first major, and obviously not quite getting it done there. I learned a lot about myself and a lot about what I actually needed to do to become Major Champion, and I feel like I’ve put a lot of that experience into practise at the U.S. Open and it was great for me just to have the opportunity to prove myself at that tournament two months after what happened at Augusta.
Luckily for me, I was able to play golf good enough to win a tournament of that stature. I’ve played very, very well this year. Climbing to No. 2 in the World Rankings feels like a big achievement for me, and to get another win a few weeks ago in Shanghai was nice, and it would be great to finish off the season well with a good result here. I would love to have the chance to win; it’s a tournament that I’ve wanted to win for the past number of years and haven’t quite been able to do it. It’s been a great year. There’s been a few changes on the golf course, off the golf course, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.
Looking forward to being back here and trying to give this tournament a good go and end the season well.
Q. For everybody, but I’ll address it to
defending champion, Ian. You all make a point how much you enjoy Hong Kong and the tournament, but there is some uncertainty going forward as far as sponsorship and changes and that sort of thing, and this part of the season gets pretty crowded with money tournaments, big‑money tournament. This one, comparatively speaking is a little smaller but how much of a consideration is the history and the legacy of this tournament as far as bringing people out, year‑in, year‑out?
IAN POULTER: Very much so. I think as Rory said, on his calendar this is one of the first one’s to go into his schedule. It’s certainly one that I look at very closely, because obviously a past champion, and the guys love to come here to play golf.
If you look back at this tournament, every single year people enjoy themselves in this city. Great food, great hotels, great golf course. And you have to look at that year‑in, year‑out and see where you like to play golf, as opposed to just going somewhere because they have a big prize fund.
Guys have a busy schedule, and it is very difficult to plan out how you want to play your golf and where you’re going to get the best result from your golf.
Some people play two tours. Some people play one tour. The guys that play two tours have a very tough time trying to pick from about 95 tournaments to get it down to about 25. Unfortunately you can’t play every single week. There’s so many fantastic events, and this happens to be one of those that is very, very good.
Q. Rory, why did you decide to play in the US PGA TOUR next season? Does it mean that you won’t play here at all? And are you surprised by the decisions of Lee Westwood that he’s going to play in the U.S., as well?
RORY McILROY: I’m basically just going to add a couple more events to my schedule in America. It’s not a drastic change. And I just felt it was something that I wanted to do. I gave it a go in 2010, and felt like it just wasn’t the right time because I didn’t have a base in America and sort of going from hotel to hotel every week didn’t really work for me.
So now that I’m going to get a base in Florida and maybe spend the first few months of the year there, it makes it easier to play both tours. So that’s basically the reason I want to play in
America. I feel as if I have play well there and the golf courses suit me and it’s a great tour to play.
But it doesn’t mean I’m going to neglect my European Tour status or play any less events. I’ll still play the events that I want to play in Europe and obviously still fulfill my commitment. There’s some events on The European Tour that I love and that I never miss.
Luke Donald has proved this year that you can play both tours and you can be successful. He’s won the money title in America and it looks like barring Martin Kaymer or myself do something very good the last couple of weeks, he’s going to win the Money List in Europe, as well. He’s proved this year that it can be done.
As for Lee Westwood or anyone else, it’s totally up to them what schedule they choose and what they want to do. As it’s a Ryder Cup year next year, The Ryder Cup counts towards an event on The European Tour and it makes it a little easier for the guys to play that tour.
Q. Are you nervous sitting here with five world‑class players that are Major winners and how are you going to go back and play your high school and junior golf after this week?
JASON HAK: I think I’m a little bit nervous right now ‑‑ but I really do enjoy meeting everyone here and just it’s a great chance for me to meet everyone. I’m very happy I guess.
Q. How about after this week, are you going back to high school or junior golf?
JASON HAK: Oh, yes, I’m still a Junior Amateur player, still going to play my tour, not the PGA Tour. I’m just very happy.
Q. You’re the odd man out here, having not played in Hong Kong.
JUSTIN ROSE: I’m playing this year, that’s the only reason, okay ‑‑ (laughter).
Q. Have you got any tips from your good friend, Ian, on the course?
JUSTIN ROSE: It’s actually funny. Last week he was full of tips for me, being World Cup partners, but this week they seem to have dried up.
IAN POULTER: (Smiling).
JUSTIN ROSE: Out here on Tour, any advantage you gain, it’s very hard‑earned and hard fought for. I’m sure he’s not going to share his yardage book with me but speaking with these
guys a few weeks ago, they did tell me what a fun tournament it is and they were very praising of the place itself.
In terms of the nuances of the golf course, I think they are keeping it very close to their chest. I had a good practise round today, I spent four and a half hours out there and hit a lot of putts around the greens and really tried to get a good feel for it because I know that’s obviously a big advantage.
MICHAEL GIBBONS: Thank you, gentlemen.
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