Golden Rose: European Tour officials confident Olympic Games hero Justin Rose will return to defend Hong Kong Open title
The Englishman beat Sweden’s Henrik Stenson in a thrilling finish in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday having beaten Denmark’s Lucas Bjerregaard by one shot last year at Fanling
Armed with HK$15 million from the Mega Events Fund, organisers of the UBS Hong Kong Open are confident Justin Rose, who has just become the first Olympic golf champion in 112 years, will return to defend his title in December.
Englishman Rose beat Sweden’s Henrik Stenson in a thrilling finish in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday to win the gold medal as golf made a triumphant return to the Olympic fold.
WATCH: golden moments on Day 9 at the Rio Olympics
A spokeswoman for the European Tour said on Monday they were in negotiations with 36-year-old Rose to return to Fanling for the US$2 million tournament from December 8-11.
Vicky Jones, the tour’s client services director for Asia, said they were “confident” a deal would be announced in the coming weeks.
“We were extremely proud to see the UBS Hong Kong Open’s reigning champion being crowned as Olympic champion in Rio, the first in 112 years,” she said.
“We would be thrilled to see Justin, who is extremely popular with fans in Asia, return to Hong Kong in December with his medal to defend his title.
“Discussions regarding the player field continue and we expect to make announcements in the coming weeks.”
Rose saved the blushes of the European Tour and its co-sanctioning partners, which include the Asian Tour, last year after their other major investment, American Dustin Johnson, missed the cut at the Hong Kong Golf Club.
Rose’s class shone through on the final day as he beat Denmark’s Lucas Bjerregaard by one shot – and helping justify the huge sums spent on enticing the world’s top players to appear.
Government officials were mollified and have again agreed to hand over HK$15 million to bring star power to Fanling.
“After careful deliberation the MEF has earmarked a maximum of HK$15 million to support the UBS Hong Kong Open,” the Mega Events Fund said.
“The organisers expect about 38,000 visitors and locals will participate in this mega event. It will help enhance Hong Kong’s international profile and reinforce the city’s status as the events capital of Asia.”
Jones said the two tours were “very appreciative” of the Mega Event Fund’s continued support.
“As Hong Kong’s oldest professional sporting event, this is a testament to the importance of the tournament to Hong Kong,” she said.
Rose, who won the 2013 US Open, has now put his name in the Olympic history books with his victory in Rio on Sunday.
“That felt better than anything I’ve ever won,” Rose said.
“It felt very different to any other tournament. When the national anthem goes up, it’s a very profound moment.”
WATCH: Justin Rose reigns supreme in Hong Kong
The open moves from November to December this year and will not appear on the European Tour’s 2016 schedule, instead opening its 2017 schedule. But it will be the season-ending event on the Asian Tour.
After two years of declining fortunes, the Hong Kong Open was rescued last year, thanks to the government funding and the return of Swiss bank UBS.