October 31, 2006 – The chances of a first Asian triumph in the UBS Hong Kong Open since 1998 have received a massive boost following stunning overseas victories for two of the event’s marquee players, Jeev Milkha Singh and KJ Choi.
Indian ace Singh registered the biggest win of his career on Sunday in the European Tour’s season-ending Volvo Masters in Valderrama, Spain, holding off a star-studded field to triumph by one shot.
A few hours later, Korean star Choi scored his fourth US PGA Tour success with a comfortable victory in the Chrysler Championship in Florida.
The duo will lead a powerful Asian challenge at the US$2 million UBS Hong Kong Open where they will be aiming to end a run of seven victories by European players. Korea’s Kang Wook Soon was the last Asian player to lift the trophy, in 1998.
They will be joined in the hunt by Chinese No.1 Liang Wenchong, another winner at the weekend when he cruised to a 12-shot victory in the China Tour’s season-ending Omega Championship in Beijing.
Kathryn Shih, Chief Executive, UBS Hong Kong Branch, said the successes were great news for the Hong Kong showpiece.
“The victories by KJ Choi, Jeev Milkha Singh and Liang Wenchong over the weekend are a fabulous boost for the UBS Hong Kong Open and should see all three of the players arrive in peak form for the tournament,” she said. “Their success is a testament to the increasing strength and depth of golf in Asia.
“UBS takes great pride in its support of golf in Asia and for Asian players and to have players of this calibre spearheading the challenge for a long-awaited next Asian victory at one of the region’s most prestigious championships is very exciting, indeed.”
The Asian contingent will face a tough battle to reclaim the trophy when the UBS Hong Kong Open takes place at the Hong Kong Golf Club in Fanling on November 16-19.
Defending champion Colin Montgomerie of Scotland will spearhead the European challenge while Major winners Retief Goosen of South Africa and Michael Campbell of New Zealand will also be among the favourites.
Singh, currently leading the Asian Tour UBS Order of Merit, was delighted with his success in Spain. “It’s my biggest victory of my career so far,” he said. “I think this is going to stay with me for the rest of my life. It’s a special one.”
It was Singh’s second European Tour victory of the year after his success in the Volvo China Open – co-sanctioned with the Asian Tour – in Beijing last April.
The son of an Olympic runner, Jeev also has three other top-10 finishes – two of them runner-up slots – on the Asian Tour this season, helping him to first place in the UBS Order of Merit rankings.
He will be looking for an outstanding display at Fanling to help him achieve his goal of ending the season as Asia’s No.1.
In addition, Jeev has been in sublime form on the Japan Golf Tour, where he has shown astonishing consistency with nine top-10 finishes this year alone.
Choi, meanwhile, never looked in trouble at the Chrysler Championship, carding a four-under 67 for a 13-under 271 total, four shots clear of Paul Goydos and Brett Wetterich.
Leading by one overnight, Choi took command when he eagled the opening hole thanks to a three wood approach shot that left him 20 feet from the flag. The field did not get to within two shots of him for the rest of the final round.
“I was really comfortable,” he said. “The wind was blowing right to left which I’m comfortable with and it was a very good start with the eagle. I hit a lot of controlled irons.”
Choi’s total of four PGA Tour victories is more than any other Asian player, one ahead of Japan’s Shigeki Maruyama.
This year’s UBS Hong Kong Open – promoted by Parallel Media Group – will once again be co-sanctioned by the European and Asian Tours.