The 'Big Easy' set to swing into action at Hong Kong Open
South African Ernie Els to boost prestige local event before heading for Macau tournament
Four-time major winner Ernie Els will play at the Hong Kong Open for the first time in October, saying the tournament fits perfectly into his year-end Asian swing.
The South African, 44, said his decision to play at Fanling came about almost by accident after he saw that the co-sanctioned Asian Tour-European Tour tournament was now positioned before the Macau Open.
"I have had a deal with the Venetian Macau Open for a couple of years and I was always going to play there. But when I looked at the schedule, quite late, and saw the Hong Kong Open was a week before Macau, it fitted perfectly into the schedule," he said.
"The last time I played in Hong Kong was back in the late '90s and I'm really looking forward to coming back. I have heard many great things about the tournament, its history and heritage," said Els, who played at the 1996 Alfred Dunhill Masters at Fanling and finished sixth, behind winner Bernhard Langer.
He will celebrate his 45th birthday on the Friday of the tournament.
The Hong Kong Open offers prize money of US$1.3 million and will be played from October 16-19. It is still without a title sponsor. Last year it went ahead after being underwritten by the Hong Kong Golf Club.
Defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez will be going for the hat-trick and a record fifth win at Fanling.
Ning Li, president of the Hong Kong Golf Association said: "The Hong Kong Open has always attracted the most famous names in golf and that is why you see such an impressive roll of honour. Ernie and Miguel are not only world-class golfers, they are true ambassadors of the sport and we are so proud to be hosting them here."
Els, who has started using a short putter, has seen a resurgence in his game and says his aim is still to win a major. His last major victory was in 2012 at the Open Championship in Britain.
"The belief that I can win a major again is the driving force behind the whole thing. I have been working very hard to get my short putt going. I am very pleased with the way that's going and my ball striking is coming back, so there is no reason I can't win a major again."