Zhang Lian Wei is targeting victory in this week’s UBS Hong Kong Open to score a unique golfing hat-trick.
The Chinese star has already won the national Opens of his home country and Macau and knows victory at the Hong Kong Golf Club in Fanling would complete an impressive treble.
“I consider this to be my ‘home’ tournament,” said Zhang, who is based just across the border from Hong Kong in Shenzhen.
“That’s why I’m eager to win. I get so much backing from the fans in Hong Kong. I have a lot of friends here and I know they will be supporting me. It’s always a great tournament and the course is in fantastic condition this year.”
Zhang welcomed the backing of the galleries even though it puts him under more pressure.
“Of course, it’s nice to have people supporting me, it’s a good thing. But yes, it definitely means I’m under more pressure to do well.
“My game is OK at the moment and I feel better after finishing in the top 10 last week [in the Volvo China Open]. But I know it is going to be very difficult to win here in Hong Kong because, every year, this tournament attracts so many strong players from all over the world.”
Zhang, 40, has been the trailblazer for Chinese golf for almost the past decade, carrying the hopes of the world’s most populous nation when going up against the world’s top players – often with great success.
He has five Asian Tour victories to his name, including back-to-back Macau Opens in 2001-02 and the Volvo China Open in 2003.
Zhang faces a tough task to add to his list of successes with a world-class field assembled for the UBS Hong Kong Open from December 1-4.
Heading a strong European contingent are defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez, European Tour Order of Merit winner Colin Montgomerie and Ryder Cup duo Thomas Bjorn and Paul Casey.
Montgomerie pointed to the list of illustrious former champions at the Hong Kong Open – including Greg Norman, Bernhard Langer, Tom Watson and Jose Maria Olazabal – and said he was keen to add his name to it.
“It is a good roll of honour here and it would be nice to win,” said the Scot. “I played my first international event as an amateur here, for Great Britain and Ireland in the Eisenhower Trophy in 1984, so it would be lovely to win here.
“It would also give me more Ryder Cup points and get me almost well on the way to the team. It is Ryder Cup points that a lot of the guys here are striving for.”
Asia’s strongest challenge is expected to come from US PGA Tour star KJ Choi of Korea, the world’s top-ranked Asian player.
Asian Tour Order of Merit leader Thaworn Wiratchant of Thailand and compatriot Thongchai Jaidee, currently second in the money standings, are also among the favourites.
Kang Wook Soon was the last Asian player to win the Hong Kong Open, in 1998, since when there has been a string of six European successes.