Event Preview: Liang is looking for double happiness
Chinese star Liang Wen-chong will try to put the battle for Asian supremacy at the back of his mind as he chases a maiden victory at the Volvo Masters of Asia starting on Thursday.
Liang, who has led the race for the prestigious Asian Tour’s UBS Order of Merit crown since May, only needs to finish ahead of Thailand’s Chapchai Nirat at Thai Country Club this week to become Asia’s new number one.
However, the 29-year-old said his main goal is to produce a winning performance at the US$750,000 Volvo Masters of Asia, which is the Asian Tour’s season finale.
“I’m not going to think too much about the Order of Merit race or finishing ahead of Chapchai,” said Liang today. “My goal is to try and win the Volvo Masters of Asia. If I can do that, it will take care of everything else.”
Liang has enjoyed the best season in his career with one victory and eight other top-10s to lead the Merit race with a haul of US$525,570. Only Chapchai, second on the rankings, can topple the Chinese ace from his perch but the beefy Thai needs to pull off a home victory and Liang to finish outside the top three.
“It’s been a great year for me. I’ve been pleased with how it has developed and I think my game has improved as I now have more experience playing around the world,” said Liang, who leads Chapchai by US$95,005.
“It would be very meaningful if I can become the first Chinese player to win the UBS Order of Merit title and it could help develop golf further in my country. When I was young, I aspired to be like Zhang Lian-wei and I hope I can also be a source of inspiration to the younger generation.”
While Liang has been paired with Chapchai in a mouth-watering clash for Thursday’s opening round, he is adamant on focusing solely on his own game.
“It is a good pairing and I’m looking forward to it. But I will just concentrate on my own game. I know Chapchai needs to win here if he is to upstage me in the Order of Merit race but I will not be too concerned with what he does,” he said.
The Zhongshan-based golfer is also oozing with confidence as he arrived in the Thai capital in top form following a joint third finish in Japan at the weekend. Liang was in contention on the last day but double bogeyed the 72nd hole to finish two shots behind the winner.
“My game is coming along nicely. I was happy with how I played in Japan despite my finish. The Thai Country Club is in good shape again and it could be low scoring as the rough is down this week,” he said.
He conceded that the pressure got to him during the Barclays Singapore Open and UBS Hong Kong Open, which offered over US$6 million in total prize money, last month and was relieved to survive those events and remain on top of the Merit race.
“It is really nice to come to our last event of the year and still be number one. I was under a lot of pressure as anyone could have overtaken me. I don’t have any pressure coming into this week and I want to try and win this tournament,” he said.
Liang also revealed he was under a different kind of pressure to perform on the fairways after getting married to sweetheart Siu Ka Wai a couple of years ago. Liang said she would be the first person to hold the UBS Order of Merit trophy if he can pull off the triumph on Sunday.
“If I had not played well, people would have started questioning if my form had anything to do with family commitments,” said Liang, who has an infant son.
“I’m indebted to my wife as she’s supported me in my goal to become a better player. In some ways, I was under pressure to produce the results and show that marriage has been good to me. Whenever I leave home, I can concentrate fully on my golf,” he said.
The Volvo Masters of Asia is limited to the top-60 players from the UBS Order of Merit. Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee, a two-time Asian Tour number one, will be defending his title.
December 4, 2007