Casey: Twice is nice
Chuah Choo Chiang
Five months after winning in Shenzhen, the defence begins
England's Paul Casey bids for a special double this weekend. The one-time Ryder Cup star will spearhead a strong European contingent that includes Sweden's Henrik Stenson, who is touted as the next 'special one' from Europe.
Casey, who has five career victories, said it was a special feeling to be defending the Open championship of China. 'It is an early defence and it seems only like yesterday that I was in Shenzhen lifting up the trophy.
'I welcome any chance I have to defend a title. It means I have done something great and I am really looking forward to defending this week,' said Casey, who was part of Europe's winning Ryder Cup team in 2004.
The 28-year-old enjoyed the great honour of lifting the Open at Shenzhen Golf Club last November when he overcame a five-stroke deficit and caught compatriot Oliver Wilson with a course-record equalling 65 in the final round. Casey then prevailed in a play-off with a birdie.
A switch in venue and dates means Casey's defence has come up much earlier, but it has presented him with a rare opportunity to win the same event twice in a season. Last November's China Open was positioned as the second leg of the 2006 European Tour Schedule and April's edition will be the 18th leg.
Casey said: 'To have the opportunity to win the Open twice in one season is also unique and that would be quite something. Maybe, I would have to present myself with the championship trophy if I won again.'
China has been good to Casey in recent times as he also triumphed in last year's TCL Classic in Sanya, also after a play-off success over Irishman Paul McGinley. The Englishman said he felt comfortable in Asia which he believes is the reason why he often finds success in the region.
'This country has been very good to me. I don't know why but I feel very relaxed in China and you usually play your best golf when you are relaxed.
'I am really looking forward to it. I am sure it will be a great course again.
'We have played some fantastic courses in China and I am sure this will be another superb test. They always seem to be in wonderful condition,' he said.
The talented Casey will likely have to contend with the likes of Stenson, ranked 12th in the world. The 30-year-old Swede has emerged as one of the brightest stars from the Continent where he won the Qatar Masters earlier this year and was also third at The Players Championship in Florida last month, an event billed as the 'unofficial fifth major'.
Revitalised Frenchman Jean van de Velde, former British Open champion Paul Lawrie of Scotland and a cosmopolitan field of proven winners in Scott Drummond of Scotland, England's Kenneth Ferrie, Jean Francois Remesy of France, Ignacio Garrido of Spain and 2004 Volvo China Open champion Stephen Dodd of Wales add to a great cast in Beijing.