EUROPEAN TOUR STARS HEADING FOR VOLVO CHINA OPEN

A number of leading European Tour players will challenge for the Volvo China Open title at Topwin Golf and Country Club at the end of this month, including the incoming Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn.

The 46-year-old Dane is without question the most successful golfer to emerge from the country of just 5.75 million souls, having claimed no fewer than 15 European Tour titles since turning pro in 1993.

Like a fine wine, Bjorn has simply got better with age and in 2011, the year he turned 40, he won three Tour titles. Bjorn has been victorious in the deserts of the Middle East, the African bush and also in the mountains of Switzerland, such are his skills on just about any golfing surface.

In 1997 Bjorn became the first Danish player to win a place on the European Ryder Cup team, and next year in Paris he will captain the European Team when they face 12 American players in the very same competition.

Bjorn is no stranger to the Volvo China Open, and in his most recent appearance in Tianjin in 2013 he finished tied eighth behind the victor, Brett Rumford. In 2004, the first year the event became part of the European Tour he finished in second place behind Welshman Stephen Dodd.

I’ve played well in the Volvo China Open in the past, and I hope to do even better this year in Beijing,” said Bjorn. “I’ve heard from some of the players that the Topwin course offers good scoring opportunities for accurate play so I’m looking forward to the challenge.”

England’s Ross Fisher was close to lifting the Volvo China Open trophy at Shenzhen Golf Club in 2005 when he teed off in the final group on Sunday with fellow Englishmen Oliver Wilson.

While the pair battled each other for the prestigious title, Paul Casey was planning his own route to victory and posted a seven under par round of 65 to head the leaderboard, a score that was good enough to earn a play off with Wilson. Casey won the play off and also the victor’s golden jacket, and his career went from strength to strength thereafter.

Fisher, who turned pro in 2004, was undaunted by his narrow loss and went on to win four times in his early career, including the Volvo World Match Play Championship in 2009 and he rose to number 17 in the world. A four-year winless spell followed, however the popular player made it back onto the winner’s podium in South Africa in 2014.

Fisher’s game has been razor sharp this season and in the last three WGC events he has finished sixth, third and fifth. This week he will compete in the US Masters at Augusta National, and given his recent good form in high profile events, it would not be a surprise if he becomes the proud owner of a rather smart green jacket on Sunday night.

I had a great chance to win in Shenzhen in 2005,” said the 36-year-old. “I think it came down to a match play situation between Oliver and myself, rather than a stroke play situation.”

Bernd Wiesberger was in joint second place after two rounds at Topwin last year but saw his chance of victory disappear with a 73 on Saturday. His knowledge of the challenging Topwin course and his excellent play in recent competitions makes him a strong contender for the winner’s trophy this year.

A pro for 11 years, the tall and athletic Austrian would certainly like to emulate the victory of his compatriot, Marcus Brier, who captured the Volvo China Open title ahead of Graeme McDowell and Scott Hend at Silport Golf Club in Shanghai in 2007.

Wiesberger is already a winner in Asia having won in South Korea in 2012 and in Indonesia in 2013. The following year he became the first Austrian to play in the US Open, and was later to find himself in the final pairing at the USPGA Championship with world number two Rory McIlroy.  

He finished runner up in Malaysia last year but his biggest win to date is the French Open in 2015 where he shot a four-round score of 271 to win by three shots.

I was enjoying myself for the first two days last year in Beijing and scoring really well,” said the Austrian. “I didn’t hole anything on the greens on Saturday so ‘moving day’ for me was moving backwards.

Thorbjorn Olesen is one several young Danes to follow in the illustrious footsteps of Thomas Bjorn, and he is also expected to be a feature on the leaderboard at Topwin.

With four European Tour titles to his credit already, he has no nerves when he is in position to win. Much to the disappointment of Chinese golf fans, Olesen edged out Li Haotong for victory in the Turkish Airlines Open in November last year.

The 23rd staging of the Volvo China Open takes place from April 27th-30th at Topwin Golf and Country Club, Beijing. Volvo was the first western brand to engage with golf in China in 1995, and this will be Volvo's 86th tournament on the European Tour. The prize fund is RMB 20 million. The tournament is organized by the China Golf Association with Volvo Car Event Management as co-organizer and promoter, and is co-sanctioned by the European Tour and OneAsia.

(2017-04-07)

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