Rising Swede in HK debut

RYDER Cup contender Robert Karlsson, one of Europe's rising stars, will make his Fanling debut in next month's Kent Hongkong Open.

The 23-year-old Karlsson, twice a runner-up on last year's European Tour, is being tipped as the Swedish player most likely to win a place in Bernard Gallacher's team for September's Ryder Cup in England.

The addition of Karlsson to the Hongkong line-up, which also includes defending champion Tom Watson of America, Japan's Isao Aoki and fellow Europeans Seve Ballesteros and David Feherty, is a further boost for the US$250,000 event - the opening leg of the1993 Asian Tour.

Don Clegg, president of the Golf Association of Hongkong, said: ''Robert Karlsson is one of the brightest young prospects in Europe and we're delighted he has confirmed his entry.'' Currently lying 11th in the European Ryder Cup points standings, Karlsson finished 22nd on last year's European Money List with total earnings of more than US$350,000.

His best performance of the season came in the European Open at Sunningdale in September when he was runner-up to England's world number one Nick Faldo.

After partnering Karlsson in the final round, Faldo said: ''Robert is a hell of a player. He has a good future and is just what we need coming through for the Ryder Cup.'' When Karlsson tees-off at Fanling in the first round of the Open on February 11 he will be attempting to go one better than fellow-Swede Mats Lanner.

Playing over the Royal Hongkong Golf Club's Composite Course in 1989, Lanner finished joint second, just one shot behind the victorious Brian Claar of the United States. That remains the best performance by a Swedish player in the Hongkong Open.