After four weeks on cloud nine, Indian Open champion Firoz Ali has come down to earth with a bang. The nerves of steel that served the 26-year-old so well in his country's national championship in Calcutta last month were stretched even further when his flight into Shanghai careered off the runway. With the pilot apparently losing control upon landing, the plane ended up in the grass adjacent to the runway. Although shaken, Ali and his fellow passengers escaped unhurt. 'There wasn't any screaming or hysteria. Everyone remained calm,' said Arjun Singh, one of five professional golfers on Sunday's flight from Bangkok. Composure fully recovered, the quartet of Indians and Venezuelan Gilberto Morales are now ready to mount challenges for the US$400,000 Volvo China Open at Shanghai's Sun Island International Golf Club, which tees off this morning. Ali, in particular, is high on confidence. He leads the Omega Tour's Order of Merit and is hopeful of maintaining that position in his first appearance in China. But it will be tough with the event attracting one of the strongest fields since the 1995 inauguration of the Asian PGA. About 260 entries were received for the China PGA co-sanctioned event. With the starting lineup restricted to 144, many were disappointed. Those who have made it here are determined to cash in over the 6,764-yard layout, located on an island 55 kilometres east of Shanghai. Originally called 'Mao Island', the land on which the course was constructed has a rich cultural background, dating back more than 5,000 years to the Zhou Dynasty. In such a setting, it would be appropriate if a Chinese player emerged victorious. By his own admission, however, defending champion Cheng Jun is not expecting a repeat of last year when he enjoyed the week of his life in Beijing. 'I still think about that week. I'll never forget it,' said Shenzhen-based Cheng, whose surprise victory enabled him to emerge from the shadow of long-time Chinese number one Zhang Lianwei. Despite his textbook technique, Cheng has struggled since that triumph. While Zhang blazed his way to a 66 in yesterday's pro-am, Cheng was experimenting with his swing, trying to hit the ball with a higher trajectory in order that it lands more softly on the greens. If conditions stay as benign as yesterday, the course will be defenceless and a higher ball flight will certainly be beneficial.