Liang can put us in hunt: Zhang
Chinese veteran Zhang Lianwei believes he and partner Liang Wenchong have what it takes to mount a serious challenge for title honours on home turf.
Zhang, a five-time Asian Tour winner who became the first Chinese player to appear at the Masters in 2004, feels the form of his teammate and his own experience mean the duo can record their best finish at the US$5.5 million event.
'This year will be much better than 2007,' declared the 43-year-old in reference to the team's performance last year when they finished 11th. 'Liang has more power in his game now. He has also gained a lot of experience in the past year after playing in the majors and other big tournaments around the world.'
Liang, 30, has enjoyed a stellar past two seasons. In 2007 he topped the Asian Tour Order of Merit, becoming China's first player to achieve the feat, and is currently lying in fourth place in the standings.
Victory at last month's Hero Honda Indian Open, where he shot a record-breaking 60 on the first day, has boosted his confidence even further. 'I always enjoy partnering Zhang,' he said. 'We feel very comfortable playing together and after our performance last year we're very much looking forward to returning. We know we can make an impact,' said Liang.
Zhang, who has divided his playing time between the European and Asian circuits this year, is delighted with his protege's emergence as a world-class player after taking Liang under his wing nearly a decade ago.
'It's great to see him enjoying his success now as he has worked very hard on his game,' said Shenzhen-based Zhang. 'We will be looking to play well in the World Cup, especially in front of our home fans.'
Zhang first teamed up with Liang in the World Cup in 2001 before reuniting again last year to produce the country's best finish. A former nationally ranked javelin thrower who worked as a caddie master at a club in Zhuhai before turning professional, Zhang also represented China at the 1995 World Cup, the first time Mission Hills hosted the championship.
'In 1995, the World Cup was held in our country for the first time and the game was still very new then. Last year, I returned after 12 years and it felt really good. Playing with Liang was a great experience for us,' says Zhang. 'It was amazing to see the number of spectators, which is good for golf in China. It will help boost the interest in the game and encourage more people to take up the sport. I am looking forward to another huge turnout this year which will motivate us to play well,' he added.
The other Asian nations competing include India (Jeev Milkha Singh, Jyoti Randhawa), Taiwan (Lin Wen-tang, Lu Wen-teh), South Korea (Bae Sang-moon, Kim Hyung-tae), the Philippines (Angelo Que, Mars Pucay), Thailand (Prayad Marksaeng, Thongchai Jaidee) and Japan (Ryuji Imada, Toru Taniguchi).