Event Preview - Liang & Zhang carry home nation hopes
China’s Liang Wen-chong and Zhang Lian-wei know that they are carrying the hopes of the world’s most populous nation and have reaffirmed their commitment in going for glory on home soil at the Omega Mission Hills World Cup which tees off on Thursday.
The duo will spearhead China’s charge against the world’s best players and they are hoping to capitalise on each other strengths in their pursuit of home success at the famed Olazabal course at Mission Hills.
Zhang, a five-time Asian Tour winner will be representing China in the World Cup for the sixth time this year while Liang, Asia’s number in 2007 will be making his fourth appearance and for the third consecutive year.
“This is an important week for us as we are playing at home and we do not want to let our home fans down. We’ve always said that it’s an honour to represent our country and we’ll do our best,” said Liang.
Liang has enjoyed three top-10 including two runner-up finishes on the Asian Tour this season and he is hopeful that his good form will bring success to his country too.
“I love to play golf. This is my job. Every time I go up there, I want to play golf, very good golf. And of course, there's pressure out there on the golf course, but I think I will turn the pressure into a very positive one for the next four rounds,” said Liang.
“I feel that your greatest competitor when you are out in the course is probably yourself. If you can overcome your nerves and stay focus throughout the four days of competition, you should be able to do well,” added the 31-year-old Chinese.
The Chinese duo best performance was a tied-11th finish in 2007 and Zhang has already identified a game plan that will hopefully improve on their previous best finish.
“I prefer the fourball format as it will give us the chance to play to our strength. There are some holes which either Liang or myself can attack and we’ll use every opportunity to return with a low score,” said Zhang.
“We were too anxious to get off to a good start last year and didn’t get the result that we wanted. We’ve since fine-tuned our strategy and mindset and believe we should be in good stead heading into the opening round tomorrow,” added Zhang.
China qualified for the Omega Mission Hills World Cup as host nation and they will tee off the opening round’s fourball alongside defending champion Sweden, represented by world number seven Henrik Stenson of Sweden and his partner, Robert Karlsson.
Stenson is the highest ranked player in this week’s elite field but Karlsson has suffered plummeting fortunes since he lifted the John Jay Hopkins trophy as Europe's number one last year.
The 40-year-old missed more than four months of the season with a career-threatening eye condition, but a second place after a play-off in Japan last week has boosted his confidence for the title defence.
“I was out for four months from the last week of May until early September because of the injury. I spent a lot of time with the family which was obviously quite nice but as a professional golfer, so I would have liked to play a little more. However, these sort of things happen and there’s not much you can do about it,” said Karlsson.
“But it's great to be back and playing now, and obviously coming into this event, I feel great having played well last week and I’m coming in here with a bit more confidence than before,” added Karlsson.
The first and third days are fourball, in which four balls are used and the player with the fewest shots takes the hole for their team. The second and final days involve foursomes play, where the teams compete using only one ball per pair.
The 2009 Omega Mission Hills World Cup will feature 28 nations vying for the US$5.5 million total prize money. 18 of these two-man teams were selected based on the Official World Golf Ranking and another nine advanced through regional qualifiers.
November 25, 2009