The Volvo China Open celebrates it’s 25th birthday as nine South Africans, led by Shaun Norris and Erik van Rooyen go in search of victory.
Home favourite Li Haotong will fancy his chances on home soil with the 23-year-old in good form; he finished inside the top 20 in each of the four events – including a sole second at the Saudi International before the Masters (T43).
Li claimed his maiden European Tour title at the Topwin Golf and Country Club in 2016 before adding his second trophy – at the expense of Rory McIlroy – at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic last year.
The home favourite is the highest-ranked player in the field this week at 39th in the Official World Golf Rankings.
Alexander Bjork tees off in a stellar group as he begins his defence at Genzon Golf Club. He will be in esteemed company alongside 2016 winner Li Haotong and Spaniard Jorge Campillo, who won his maiden European Tour title at the 229th time of asking at the Trophee Hassan II last week.
Bjork, who secured his first title at the Topwin Golf and Country Club 12 months ago, will get under way with home favourite Li and Campillo at 12.40pm local time.
Norris is the sixth-highest ranked player, with last week’s third-round leader Van Rooyen eighth alongside England’s Ross Fisher.
Van Rooyen will hope for another strong showing as he looks to build on his Race to Dubai ranking of 19th. Last year, Keith Horne was the only one of a dozen to advance to the weekend. Van Rooyen joins Norris, Dean Burmester, Haydn Porteous in seeking a much-improved week.
Daniel van Tonder makes a rare European Tour start this week.
The inaugural tournament was played in 1995 at the Beijing International Golf Club and was won by Paraguayan Raul Fretes. In total, four Chinese players have won their national Open – Cheng Jun, Ashun Wu, Li and Zhang Lian-wei, who won the tournament in 2003, the last year before it became a European Tour event.
The winner receives a yellow jacket.
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