Finchem stirs up Olympic hopes

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 April, 2008, 12:00am

PGA Tour chief Tim Finchem has ignited a campaign for golf to be readmitted to the Olympics, saying 'it's time to move forward'.

The timing could not be better as the golfing world focuses on the national open of China - only four months before Beijing hosts the Greatest Show on Earth.

Golf was once an Olympic sport - in 1900 and 1904 - and Finchem has targeted 2016 for the game's return.

'There remain questions to be answered and issues to be resolved, but I believe the time is now right to move forward,' said Finchem. Among them are the professional or amateur argument and drug testing, which golfers are not yet subjected to.

The Olympics are in the air at the Volvo China Open - along with millions of cherry blossom 'snowflakes' floating around in the heavily polluted skies. Haile Gebrselassie-like asthma sufferers face a fun four days.

While everyone is asking the same question - how in the world will Beijing clear the skies? - Chinese number one Liang Wenchong has an air of confidence in his quest for the 'gold medal' at the US$2.2 million Asian Tour/European Tour event.

'I really want to win this week as it's my national open,' said Liang, who failed to make the cut at the Masters last weekend.

'Winning the title would by like the Olympic gold medal. I have a burning desire to do well. I guess that's where the pressure will come from,' said the 29-year-old, who won the Asian Tour order of merit title last year.

'I'm very grateful for the Masters invitation as it gave me the opportunity to play in my first major. It was a good learning experience and I'm sure I'll be able to put that experience to good use this week. I'm satisfied with my performance at Augusta.

'I believe playing in front of huge crowds on different kinds of courses, handling the pressure and being among the game's elite will go along way towards shaping me as a better player,' said Liang, who will play the opening rounds at the Beijing CBD International Golf Club with defending champion Markus Brier.

'I know how hard it is to defend [a tournament],' said the Austrian. 'I have tried it once and didn't succeed and the Volvo China Open hasn't been defended yet.'

One of the early favourites is Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell, who won the Ballantine's Championship in South Korea last month, beating 2006 China Open champion Jeev Milkha Singh in a play-off. He also finished in a three-way tie for second behind Brier last year when the open was held at the Shanghai Silport Golf Club.