Illness robs Mr Lu of a fairytale comeback

ILLNESS has forced legendary Taiwanese Lu Liang-huan to cancel his eagerly anticipated return to the territory for this week's Kent Hong Kong Open, writes Spencer Robinson.

''Mr Lu'', winner of the inaugural Hong Kong Open in 1959, was scheduled to mark the 35th anniversary of that success with a nostalgic return to Fanling.

However, the 57-year-old failed to arrive in time for Tuesday's Pro-Am and faxed notice of his withdrawal to tournament organisers later that afternoon.

Penny Bartley, the Open's executive secretary, said: ''The fax said he was sick and that he was sorry he would be pulling out of the tournament.'' Lu, who gained international recognition when he finished runner-up to American Lee Trevino in the British Open at Royal Birkdale, also won the Hong Kong crown in 1974.

Between the years of 1959 and 1985, he won a total of 11 events on the Asian Tour and was twice winner of the Order of Merit. Only compatriot Hsieh Yung-yo has been more successful on the Asian circuit.

Three other notable Asian players will also be conspicuous by their absence at Fanling this week - Singapore's Samson Gimson, Malaysian Periasamy Gunasegaran and Chinese amateur Zheng Weinjun.

Gimson, twice a winner of the Hong Kong Open amateur championship and now plying his trade with great success on the lucrative Japanese Tour, withdrew because his wife is seriously ill.

Gunasegaran, like Gimson a former stalwart of his country's amateur team, underlined his status as one of the region's most promising young professionals by winning the Singapore and Malaysian PGA championships in consecutive weeks in December.

However, since missing the cut in the Johnnie Walker Classic in Phuket three weeks ago, ''Guna'' has been laid low by illness. He missed last week's Philippine Open and has now withdrawn from Hong Kong.

Meanwhile, familiar problems of visa complications have denied Chung Shan Hot Spring Golf Club's Zheng, a former China Open amateur champion, the opportunity to further his golfing experience.

But two amateurs from China - Shenzhen Golf Club's Cheng Jun and Zhang Lianwei - will be in the starting line-up.