Zhang in search of third Macau title
Former Chinese number one Zhang Lianwei hopes to mark the 10th anniversary of the Macau Open next week by producing a record third victory at a venue he calls his second home.
The 42-year-old, a five-time winner on the Asian Tour, is the only player to secure two wins at the challenging Macau Golf and Country Club but Zhang hopes to build on his reputation by playing his way into the record books once more.
He will arrive in Macau with his confidence soaring following a tied 10th-place finish at the inaugural Pine Valley Beijing Open a fortnight ago, which was his first top-10 in Asia for more than a year.
'I always enjoy going to Macau. It's so close to Shenzhen and I've got a lot of friends in there,' said Zhang, who won in 2001 and 2002.
Macau holds some of Zhang's fondest memories as it was in 2001 that he secured his first strokeplay victory on the Asian Tour. The following year, Zhang prevailed over major winner Nick Price of Zimbabwe after a titanic five-hole play-off. 'My win over Nick Price is certainly one of my career highlights. It's not very often you can beat a major champion in a play-off,' said Zhang, whose other career highs include a one-shot victory over Ernie Els in the 2003 Singapore Masters.
A weekend appearance in Macau will also see Zhang become the latest member of the Asian Tour's million-dollar club as he is only US$672 short of US$1 million in career earnings on the Asian Tour.
While he feels right at home in Macau, Zhang said that his natural low trajectory ball-flight has been the key to his past success. 'The winds can pick up greatly at Macau Golf and Country Club. I hit a really low ball and I think that's why I've managed to play well there over the years. However, I've been also trying to make some adjustments to my game recently to hit a higher ball flight. I was fearful to change my swing but in order to lengthen my career and improve my chances of winning again, I decided to go with the change.'
Apart from two titles, Zhang has a wonderful record in Macau, with four other top-10s since the event's inauguration in 1998, the last being in 2005, and one other top-20.
Poor putting has been Zhang's Achilles heel throughout his career and he admitted to using between 70 to 80 different putters over a period of two years. But it dawned upon him at the end of last year that it wasn't the equipment which wasn't suited to him but rather a poor putting technique.
'I realised that it was not the putter but the stroke. So I changed the stroke and now I'm happy with it,' said Zhang.
The amount Zhang Lianwei has to win to reach US$1 million in career earnings:US$672