(See photo: China's number one golfer Lian Wei ZHANG (left), with OMEGA President Stephen Urquhart and Kyi Hla HAN holding the OMEGA HONG KONG OPEN winner's trophy).
OMEGA have affirmed their international presence in professional golf by announcing they will title sponsor the Hong Kong Open for the next three years.
From the home of one of the top events on the European Tour, the Omega European Masters in Switzerland, Omega announced they will continue their association with what is arguably the most prestigious national open in Asia.
It was also revealed that the tournament, now in its 43rd year, will feature American star John Daly, winner last week in Munich. Daly is keen to return to Hong Kong having played in the Hong Kong SAR once before.
"Last year we announced we would title sponsor the European Masters for five years, and we are now delighted to say that we will title sponsor the Hong Kong Open for a further three years. It also gives me great pleasure to say that one of the most exciting players in the game, John Daly, will play in Hong Kong this year," said Stephen Urquhart, President of Omega.
"This week, high in the Swiss Alps at Crans-sur-Sierre, we can look forward to the Omega European Masters teeing off, and then at the end of this year, we will head for another high at the Omega Hong Kong Open," added Urquhart.
Omega title sponsored the Hong Kong Open for the first time last year and increased the total prize money to one-half million US dollars for the first time in its history. This year Omega have again increased the purse to a record US$700,000, with first place worth US$113,050.
The Omega Hong Kong Open will be played at the Hong Kong Golf Club from November 29 to December 2, and for the first time the tournament is being joint- sanctioned by the Asian PGA-run Davidoff Tour and the European Tour.
Along with the top players from Asia and Europe, Daly's participation will help attract large crowds to the famous fairways of the Hong Kong Golf Club.
Daly played in the Hong Kong Open in 1998 and was in contention for most of the week before finishing equal 19th. The American, who has been ranked as the longest hitter on the US PGA Tour on eight occasions, has been enjoying a return to form this year. He finished joint third in the Scottish Open, equal fifth in the FedEx St Jude Classic and was also tied for sixth in the Macau Open. Daly had not won since his victory in the British Open in 1995 but his confidence is high after his triumph at the BMW International Open in Munich and on form could well finish the season with a victory in Hong Kong.
"Playing in the Omega Hong Kong Open will be a great way to finish the year for me. I enjoyed playing there two years ago and remember the galleries really being behind me. I have had a good season so far and would love to finish the year on a winning note," said Daly.
Several other star players will be announced for the event shortly, ensuring that the Omega Hong Kong Open will provide a thrilling climax the year.
"Golf is extremely popular in Europe and Asia and because both these markets are renowned for appreciating high-end luxury goods, they play an integral part in Omega's global golf strategy. With the Omega Hong Kong Open being joint-sanctioned this year between Europe and Asia we will be able to reach a huge audience," added Urquhart.
The Omega Hong Kong Open will mark another peak for Omega and their sponsorship programme in Asia. Omega title sponsored the Asian PGA Tour from 1995 to 1998 and the Asian PGA Championship from 1996 to 1999.
"This is wonderful news for the Hong Kong Open that a sponsor of Omega's stature has chosen to continue its association with our event for three more years. Omega title sponsored Open, The Hong Kong Golf Association's flagship event last year for the first time and we were delighted with what proved to one of our finest ever Open championships," said Eric White, President of the Hong Kong Golf Association.
Last year England's Simon Dyson won the Omega Hong Kong Open for his third victory of the year on the Davidoff Tour. The tournament was the season-ending event on Tour and Dyson's victory allowed him to claim the Order of Merit title. He is expected to defend his title in HK later this year.
Attending today's press conference were two of the top players from the Davidoff Tour who will be bidding for honours in Hong Kong, China's Zhang Lian-wei and Hong Kong-based Kyi Hla Han of Myanmar.
The field for the Omega Hong Kong Open will boast 60 players from the Davidoff Tour and 60 from the European Tour. While the tournament will be the closing event of this year's Davidoff Tour, it will serve as the second leg of the 2001/2002 European Tour.
Justin Strachan, Chief Executive Officer Asian PGA, and Keith Waters, Director of International Policy for the European Tour were also present at the press conference.
"We can expect to see a brilliant array of stars from Asia and Europe this year in Hong Kong. Several star players will be announced in the lead up to the tournament while the field will boast quality in depth, with many household names from both the Davidoff and European Tours," said Strachan.
The Omega Hong Kong Open will be the fourth and final event of the season to be joint-sanctioned between Asia and Europe. The Carlsberg Malaysian Open, Caltex Singapore Masters and BMW Asian Open in Taiwan are the others.
The Omega Hong Kong Open will be promoted by Hong Kong Golf Promotions for the second successive year. The tournament will be broadcast live on CNBC Sports in Asia and Europe and many other global networks.
The Hong Kong Golf Club has hosted the Hong Kong Open every year since 1959 and will stage the tournament on its Composite Course, which is a combination of the best holes from the New and Eden Courses.
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