Fanling favourite Rory McIlroy returns as US Open champion and in hunt of the one that got away as organisers gear up for the 'biggest and the best' UBS Hong Kong Open which gets under way tomorrow. Everyone, from players to officials, yesterday pumped up the oldest professional sporting event in town, which for the first time has got government patronage in the form of HK$8 million from the Tourism Commission's Mega Events Fund. This money has been used to attract players including crowd favourites such as McIlroy and the here-today-gone-tomorrow John Daly. It prompted Vincent Fung, an assistant commissioner for tourism and secretary of the Mega Events Fund assessment committee, to extol the virtues that the big bucks will bring to the tournament. 'With our support, for the first time, it will take the tournament to new heights,' Fung (pictured) said. What went unsaid was if this support would continue next year, too, with the tournament facing an uncertain future as this is the last time Swiss bank UBS will be backing the event. Fung refused to be buttonholed. 'We can't say anything right now. We are reviewing the Mega Events Fund and will be making a decision early next year [whether to continue with it or not],' he said. But the money given this year has been warmly welcomed by the Hong Kong Golf Association, which had gone out to get big-name players by paying them appearance fees - or as the government prefers, 'promotional fees'. 'The MEF money has been invaluable,' association president David Hui Chun-yue said. 'It has helped push this event up to another level.' With a field including McIlroy and two former major winners in Irishman Padraig Harrington and South Korean Yang Yong-eun, it might appear so for the jointly sanctioned European Tour and Asian Tour tournament. But the absence of the top two players in the European Tour's Race to Dubai - Luke Donald and Martin Kaymer - plus others such as Lee Westwood and Darren Clarke, who are all playing this week in the non-sanctioned Nedbank Golf Challenge in Sun City, South Africa - a 12-player field with US$5 million in prize money - raises the question if the MEF money has been really well spent. But Allen Lo, the chief executive of UBS Hong Kong, was convinced that it had been and labelled the 138-strong field who would tee off tomorrow as the 'best field in the 53-year history of the tournament'. 'We are very pleased with the field we have got,' Lo said. 'And we are very happy at the support we have got from the government, and it is quite significant that they recognise the importance of the Hong Kong Open as a major sporting event.' McIlroy is here by a quirk of fate - the Northern Ireland whizz-kid signed a two-year contract last year committing him to this week's event, too. It is believed the organisers got him at a cheap US$300,000. McIlroy is bound to hog the limelight being the only current major winner on show. His stock has risen hugely in the past year. Apart from winning his first major, McIlroy has also risen to world number two, and he will be the hoping to round off 'a great year' by winning the US$2.75 million UBS Hong Kong Open. 'I have been coming to Hong Kong since 2005 when I played in the Faldo Series. This is one of my favourite cities and I certainly hope this will be my year,' McIlroy said. 'I have come close to winning in 2008 and 2009, finishing second both times. It didn't quite work out last year, too, and I hope I can change that this time.' Meanwhile, due to the late start this year - in December - the field has been reduced to accommodate only 138 players. 'We had to do this because this tournament is being played for the first time in December and daylight fades soon at this time of the year. We had to cut the field by six players,' said Iain Valentine, association chief executive. Due to the World Cup tournament that was played in Hainan last week, the Fanling showcase had to be pushed back. 'But we hope to get back to November next year,' he Said. A lot of things can change in a year, but organisers hope what will remain the same is the MEF funding.