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Zhang Lian-wei gearing up for busy summer

Chinese trailblazer Zhang Lian-wei is gearing up for a busy summer swing that includes trips to new countries, playing host to his annual junior tournament and battling to keep his Tour card in Europe.

The self-taught Zhang has not played since finishing eighth in the Macau Open last month for his first top-10 on the Asian Tour this season but will hit the airways non-stop from next week onwards, starting with the inaugural US$300,000 Brunei Open.

After Brunei , Zhang will then head to Japan , followed by Europe for two events before returning for the fifth Zhang Lian-wei Junior Invitational in Shenzhen, an event he mooted as part of his efforts to develop golf in China . Then it's back to Europe in August before refocusing his efforts in Asia towards the latter part of the year.

Up first for Zhang will be a crack at the Brunei Open title at the plush Empire Hotel and Country Club. The 40-year-old has not won in 18 months but a one-month break has aptly recharged his batteries.

"I have been pleased with my performance this year, but the results that I expect are still not quite there. I have only missed one cut this season but have had a few finishes well down the leaderboard. One poor round can make all the difference, but fortunately I am getting into the weekends," said Zhang, one of Asia 's stars in the victorious Visa Dynasty Cup team in April.

"The one positive is certainly the one missed cut stat right now. The year I finished second on the Asian Tour Order of Merit in 2003, I actually missed a great number of cuts but was fortunate to have two wins that season. So it really is funny to see how things work out sometimes."

New equipment has given Zhang new enthusiasm as well in his bid to return to the winner's circle. "I have just received some new irons from Honma and I have been working on my yardages coupled with the new Nike ball which is fantastic. I have gained a lot of confidence since making the change to the new equipment and I hope to ride this crest through the remainder of the year," said Zhang.

"I am looking forward to the Brunei Open as it will be my first event since Macau and I understand the Jack Nicklaus course is a good challenge. I need to get back to competitive golf and the Brunei Open was on my schedule and I will treat it as the start of my second half of the season," said Zhang, whose last victory was the 2003 Volvo China Open.

As the Brunei event will close the front half of the Asian Tour season, Zhang will then head full speed to Europe in his bid to retain his playing rights on the European Tour. His exemption gained from the famous win in Singapore in 2003 where he beat Ernie Els at the 72nd hole expires at the end of this season.

Zhang has signed up for two events in Germany and one each in Sweden and Switzerland in July and August. "I am very mindful of my winner's exemption expiring this year and I want to make sure I keep my options open for 2006 which I hope will include playing privileges on the European Tour.

"I need to boost my position on the European money ranking but I have some work to do. Hopefully, I can play well to have a shot at qualifying for the year-end Volvo Masters in Spain .

"Obviously you enter every event with the intention of winning, and it would be great to accomplish such a feat in Europe and these events will be great opportunities to try," said Zhang, who is presently ranked 113th on the European money list. The top-115 players will keep their Tour cards for next season.


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