Asia's best eye HK title

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 November, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 November, 2008, 12:00am

Buoyed by Jeev Milkha Singh's victory in the Barclays Singapore Open at the weekend, Asia's top players will be aiming to set the record straight with an overdue victory at this week's UBS Hong Kong Open.

Kang Wook-soon of South Korea was the last Asian player to claim the title, 10 years ago, and since then European players have monopolised the trophy.

'Has it been that long?' asked India's Singh. 'The course doesn't suit Europeans or Asians. I think it is all dependent on the mindset and how the form is. Hopefully, it changes this year.'

Singh, who all but clinched his second Asian Tour order of merit title with his victory in Singapore, will be among the favourites when the 50th edition of the UBS Hong Kong Open tees off at Hong Kong Golf Club on Thursday.

On his last appearance at the tournament two years ago he finished joint third and clinched his first order of merit title. 'I have good memories from Hong Kong in 2006,' said Singh, who also has victories in Europe and Japan this year.

'Fanling is an old, traditional course. You have to think a lot there. It's a great layout and the weather is always nice.'

Thongchai Jaidee is another Asian player with reason to be confident. The Thai star has finished in the top 10 at the past three Hong Kong Opens, including joint second last year behind champion Miguel Angel Jimenez, who returns in search of a third title.

'I like the golf course,' he said. 'You have to play a lot of good shots. It's a thinking man's course, and I like it very much. The set-up is always very challenging and I've always felt comfortable there.

'The Europeans use a lot of iron play, and you have to hit it straight out there. The greens are very small and you've got to hit your approach shots well. Last year, I enjoyed myself in Hong Kong. The greens are good.'

China's Zhang Lianwei, another player who has savoured victory on the European Tour, said Asia's elite had every reason to be optimistic.

'I hadn't realised an Asian hasn't won in Hong Kong for such a long time,' he said. 'It just so happens that the Europeans have enjoyed more success than us, but it is no reflection at all as our players have won the other co-sanctioned events in Asia regularly.'

Asia has come close to providing an Open champion several times since Kang's triumph.

Apart from Thongchai's joint second place 12 months ago - when KJ Choi of Korea also finished on the same total - Juvic Pagunsan of the Philippines was runner-up in 2006 when he lost out to Spain's Jose Manuel Lara by one shot.

Ten-year itch

Kang Wook-soon of South Korea was the last Asian player to win the HK Open in: 1998