Chinese golfing pair eye Olympic glory
Liang and Wu would want nothing more than represent their country at the 2016 Rio Games
China's top two ranked golfers, Wu Ashun and Liang Wenchong, flew the flag proudly at the US$7 million BMW Masters yesterday - something they hope to do at the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
As Swede Peter Hanson continued to set the pace in the elite 78-man field, albeit narrowly from Rory McIlroy, Wu put his name in lights with a hole in one during his three-under-par 69 to be in a tie for 24th place, along with Liang, who shot a 72.
"I would love to represent China at the Olympics," said Wu, who is ranked 207 in the world, thanks to a breakthrough victory on the Japan Tour last month.
Liang, 34, is back in business after nearly two years remodelling his swing and supporting team, and feels the best years are ahead of him as he also sets his sights on Rio.
"I feel I will be in my prime in the next five years," said 253rd-ranked Liang, who beat Y.E. Yang in a five-hole play-off thriller at the Nanshan Masters on the OneAsia Tour this month.
"If my ranking is within 300 in the world, I should be able to represent China in the 2016 Olympic Games.
"I feel younger now because my driver is going about 300 yards. It's not only the driver, I have also spent time in the gym working out. Everything is coming together.
"Even though I hadn't won for almost two years, I didn't feel like it was a slump. I was so excited to win at Nanshan, especially beating Y.E. Yang. That was a big stepping stone because of the self-belief and self-confidence it gives you.
"Two years ago, I decided to spend more time with my wife and kids. My ranking was about 170 in the world but I wanted to make a few changes, including my supporting team and also a technical swing change."
While Liang and Wu do no want for playing opportunities, many aspiring players on the mainland have limited chances as the China Golf Association, a founding member of OneAsia, continues to snub the Asian Tour.
Liang urged the two tours to settle their feud, get together and provide more opportunities for Chinese players.
"I don't understand why there are two different tours in Asia and I would like to see both tours merge into one and that will create a bigger platform so more players from China have playing opportunities.
"With the growing economy in China I hope to see more tournaments and a richer local tour. I would like to see OneAsia hold more tournaments in China," said Liang, who partnered the legendary Yao Ming in a pro-am celebrity tournament in Hainan last weekend.
While Liang and Wu will be looking for a big finish day today, and a big pay day, they are still 10 shots behind Hanson (16 under), who has a one-shot lead over world number one McIlroy, with South African George Coetzee two further shots back at 13 under.
"It's always great to play with him," Hanson said of today's showdown with McIlroy. "He played a lot better than me today. I'm feeling a bit lucky to be one shot ahead. If I'm going to beat him, I need to play better."
McIlroy said: "I'll go out and try to shoot the best score possible. I'll give it my all and hopefully that's good enough."