Zhang to bear hip injury for shot at home title
Noel Prentice in Shanghai
Zhang Lianwei will sacrifice his health to defend his title at the US$1 million Volvo China Open, which starts in Shanghai today.
The Chinese hero pulled out of a tournament in Japan last weekend because of a sore hip, but will suffer the pain to play in his national open.
'I wouldn't be playing if it wasn't the Volvo China Open,' he said. 'What I need is rest.'
Zhang, who delivered for an expectant nation last year, said his hip was suffering from wear and tear, but it wasn't career threatening.
'It's a long term injury, just kind of worn out. I've worked so hard over the past decade,' said the 39-year-old Shenzhen native. 'I need at least two to three months to recover.'
Zhang knows there is a lot of pressure on him to play ... and perform this weekend. 'Remember they call me Volvo Zhang because 90 per cent of my titles are from their competitions.
'Every country has its own major event and that's why I'm here. I will do my best.'
He said he felt the pain on his downswing.
Zhang said he had had treatment and should get through the weekend and the Omega Hong Kong Open next week.
Zhang has been extremely busy over the past year, playing in more than 30 events, including the US Masters at Augusta, where he failed agonisingly to make the cut by one stroke.
He received a special invitation last season, but knows he will have to qualify next time around.
The tournament here celebrates its 10th anniversary this year and is also jointly sanctioned by the European and Asian Tours for the first time.
'It's a new start for us and recognition of the development of Chinese golf,' said the trailblazer, who became the first Chinese golfer to win a European Tour event - the Caltex Masters in Singapore, where he beat Ernie Els.
Zhang recalled how nervous he was winning last year when he beat Thai Thaworn Wiratchant by one stroke and expects to encounter the same pressure.
'I need to stay calm on the course this week. Each player has their own pressure. This year, with the European Tour players, the depth of the field is stronger.
'The course will be well received by the European players. The weather suits them and the greens should be good for them. I expect some high-quality opposition.'
That will come in the form of Dane Thomas Bjorn, Scot Paul Lawrie, and England's Barry Lane, Paul Broadhurst, Simon Dyson and the promising Nick Doherty, the European Rookie of the Year in 2002.
Joining Zhang as leading chances from the Asia Tour will be Jyoti Randhawa, Simon Yates and Prayad Marksaeng.
'There can only be one winner and I hope it's me again,' said Zhang. That scenario would mean him defending the title next year at his home course - the Shenzhen Golf Club.