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European Tour returns to China this week

This could well be the week for China 's Liang Wen-chong to land the big one.

The Asian Tour's rising star has been knocking on the door for his first major victory and the US$1 million TCL Classic on home soil provides his best opportunity yet for various reasons.

But first, the 26-year-old Liang must deal with the likes of Europe 's Ryder Cup stars Colin Montgomerie, Paul Casey, Paul McGinley and big Dane Thomas Bjorn, who are also in this week's field at Yalong Bay Golf Club.

The TCL Classic, jointly sanctioned by the Asian Tour and European Tour, was last staged in 2002 as a full Asian event when Montgomerie won the title at Harbour Plaza Golf Club in Dongguan. It was also at this tournament when Liang notched his career best finish with a third-place outing and he capped it by shooting the Tour's 100th hole-in-one during the third round.

The scenic Yalong Bay course has also become a happy hunting ground for the Chinese youngster as he was joint third last year at this venue which staged the Sanya Open on the Asian Tour.

Liang's game has matured considerably over the years and two top-10s in co-sanctioned events in Singapore and Malaysia earlier this season have strengthened his belief that a breakthrough is around the corner.

"I'm looking forward to the week," said Liang, who earlier this month signed up with management company IMG to handle his career. "It will be a tough week as Monty and Thomas will be here challenging and I expect Zhang Lian-wei to also be in the chase.

"I like this course but I will have to shoot lower than my last year's total of 17-under-par if I'm to have a chance of winning," added Liang, who was named last month as one of the captain's picks for the Visa Dynasty Cup clash against Japan next month..

Winning on Sunday ahead of Monty and company could well be the perfect wedding gift for Liang as he will be getting married next weekend in his hometown, Zhongshan. "I think I'm getting more nervous about my marriage than playing golf. It is a big step for me but I'm sure marriage will help bring stability in my career," said Liang, who also plays in Japan .

The Asian Tour's challenge will also include in-form Indian Jyoti Randhawa, fresh from top-15 finishes in Dubai and Qatar which have secured his European Tour card for the 2006 season.

"It's good to know that I've done enough for my European card. My next aim now is to try and break into the top-50 in the world (to get into the Majors)," said Randhawa, who is presently 84th in the world.

China 's number one Zhang , Thailand 's Thaworn Wiratchant, who was top-20 in the Qatar Masters last week, and Australian Terry Pilkadaris will also look forward to locking horns with their counterparts from the European Tour.

Pilkadaris won twice in China last season, including at Yalong Bay and a return to the site of his Sanya Open success where he beat American Clay Devers in a play-off will add to his confidence.

Montgomerie, a seven-time European number one, will be chasing for a good finish at Yalong Bay to secure his place in the Masters at Augusta National next month. Presently ranked 54th in the world, the Scot, who was fourth in Dubai two weeks ago, needs to break into the top-50 by the end of the month to secure his place in the year's first Major.

Also competing this week is Welshman Ian Woosnam, who was named the 2006 Ryder Cup captain for Europe .

Asian Tour number one Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand is taking the week off but compatriot Boonchu Ruangkit is back in action after a two-week layout due to a knee injury.

A total of 168 players, including three Chinese amateurs, will tee off on Thursday.

 

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