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Homecoming puts spotlight on Li

By YANG XINWEI | China Daily | Updated: 2019-04-29 09:06
Former Volvo China Open champions Li Haotong of China and Alexander Levy of France are flanked by their caddies during the opening round of last year's tournament at Beijing's Topwin Golf and Country Club. RICHARD CASTKA/SPORTPIXGOLF.COM

Former winner set to make a charge at becoming double champ of China Open

Li Haotong's quest to be the best is bringing him home this week.

Chinese golf's brightest star, ranked No 39 in the world, will lead the charge when the Volvo China Open celebrates its 25th anniversary at Shenzhen's Genzon Golf Club.

The May 2-5 tournament, sanctioned by the European Tour, Asian Tour and China Golf Association, with 20 million yuan ($2.97 million) up for grabs, has once again attracted a strong international field.

Heading the list are former winners Li, Swedish defending champion Alexander Bjork, Asian Tour order of merit leader Scott Hend of Australia and the tournament's only two-time winner, Alexander Levy of France.

While Bjork will be looking to defend his first European Tour title, won in impressive fashion 12 months ago, he faces a strong challenge from players on both tours as well as the best China has to offer.

While the top 10 on the Asian Tour order of merit are set to tee it up at the Neil Haworth-designed course, the European Tour will be strongly represented by the likes of 2011 China Open champion and Ryder Cup star Nicolas Colsaerts of Belgium; current No 9 on the Race to Dubai Kurt Kitayama of the United States; and four-time European Tour winner Bernd Wiesberger of Austria, who won the last time he played at Genzon Golf Club, in 2017.

"As the 25th anniversary of the Volvo China Open is without doubt a milestone occasion in the history of China's national open championship, we are excited to see so many world-class players and former winners in the lineup," said Volvo China Open board chairman Sven de Smet.

"With six of our past eight champions in the field-including Alexander Levy, who won in 2014 and 2017-this year's competition will be a fitting celebration of both the tournament and the development of golf in China.

"Since the Volvo China Open became a European Tour event in 2004, we have seen homegrown winners in Wu Ashun and Li Haotong. They've gone on to win five European Tour events between them while helping to promote Chinese golf on the global stage.

"We are delighted to share in that success and welcome them back for this year's Volvo China Open."

This marks the second time the tournament is being staged at Genzon Golf Club. At the 20th anniversary event in 2014, Levy finished 19-under to beat Tommy Fleetwood by four strokes.

Since then the club has become the first Chinese addition to the European Tour Properties' world class network of destinations.

As well as showcasing a rich field from the top levels in Europe, Asia and China, the tournament will feature a number of amateurs and professionals who earned coveted invites after a series of international and domestic qualifying events.

Kuang Yang, a 14-year-old from Chengdu, punched his ticket after winning the Volvo China junior match play championship at Southern Wood Golf & Country Club in Fujian in December.

Seeded fourth and battling chest pains, Kuang clinched his Open invite with a 2&1 final victory over Guangdong's Wu Dian-chao.

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