Ireland's Padraig Harrington tees off in the S$700,000 Omega Hong Kong Open this Thursday leading the field as the highest ranked player on the World Rankings and hoping to make it another winning start to the season
The number 10 ranked player in the world won the BMW Asian Open in Taiwan at the end of last year, which was the opening event of The European Tour's 2002/2003 season.
The victory was the springboard for a fine season by the Irishman, who went on to finish third on the Order of Merit list.
The Omega Hong Kong Open, being played at The Hong Kong Golf Club, marks the start of the 2003/2004 season for Europe, while it is the penultimate leg of this year's Asian PGA Tour.
"I have never actually played in Hong Kong and that is one of the reasons why I have come here. I have always looked to play golf around the world and it certainly took my interest to come here," said Harrington, who has won seven times in Europe.
One of the strongest ever fields has assembled for the Omega Hong Kong Open with Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke, defending champion Fredrik Jacobson from Sweden, Spain's Jose Maria Olazabal, the 2001 winner, Thomas Bjorn from Denmark, Korean Choi Kyung-ju, England's Nick Faldo, and Michael Campbell from New Zealand all competing.
"It is a strong field, there are a lot of great players here from Europe and Asia. It is going to be tough but as usual you have just got to play your own game. I have not played the course yet but the look of the golf course suits my eye," said Harrington.
In-form Clarke could be the man to beat this week as he finished fourth in the Nedbank Challenge last Sunday in South Africa. He is also making hisfirst appearance in Hong Kong's national Open, which is in its 45th year.
"I need to try and get over the jet lag as quick as I can. I have watched the tournament over the past couple of years on television. I watched Ollie (Jose Maria Olazabal) win two years ago and saw Fredrik (Jacobson) win last year so although I have not played the course I know some of the holes," said Clarke, who was second on last year's Order of Merit list and is presently one rung below Harrington on the World Rankings.
Jacobson is delighted to be back in Hong Kong, which was the scene of his first win on The European Tour.
"This place is always going to be special for me as it marked my first win. It was a great help to me through this past year in certain situations. It has been very nice to have that win under my belt so I am very happy to be back," said the Swede.
Jacobson enjoyed a great season in Europe. He won in Portugal and claimed the season ending Volvo Masters in Spain, which allowed him to finish fourth on the Order of Merit.
Tickets for the Omega Hong Kong Open are available at www.cityline.com <http://www.cityline.com> or call the hotline 2111 5333. Hong Kong mobile users can use 1O1O m-Commerce directly from mobile handsets by dialing 9025 0157. Ticket prices on Thursday and Friday are HK$50 per day, Saturday HK$150, Sunday HK$250, while a four-day ticket is HK$300.
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