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Europeans looking for victory in China Open

World number 13 Henrik Stenson and revitalised Frenchman Jean Van de Velde are among the challengers for the China Open title at the Nick Faldo-designed Beijing Honghua International Golf Club this week.

Big-hitting Swede Stenson, who won the Qatar Masters in January, missed the cut on his U.S. Masters debut last week but is relishing his recent rise in the rankings.

"I enjoy playing with the best players in the world and I seem to do pretty well when I do so," the 30-year-old told the European Tour's official website.

"I have taken some big steps in the rankings and I am going to try and keep on improving."

Stenson proved himself a force on the world stage when he finished second in last season's Scandinavian Masters, Qatar Masters and German Masters.

He was also third on four separate occasions including the WGC-American Express Championship in San Francisco.

Van de Velde arrives in Beijing in good form after claiming his first victory for 13 years at last month's Madeira Island Open.

The 39-year-old Frenchman was especially pleased his win earned a two-year tour exemption.

"Last year I was blessed to get my card back and this year I'm blessed to have it for another two years," said Van de Velde.

"My victory in Madeira means a lot to me after some difficult times with injury over the last few years. "

The former Ryder Cup player feared he might not compete again after injuring his knee while skiing. He needed an operation in 2003 during a three-year period in which he played only a handful of events.

Van de Velde regained his tour card after finishing second at the 2005 French Open.

Paul Casey of Britain will be defending the title he won at Shenzhen Golf Club in November.

The Englishman fired a closing 65 to surge through the field and set up a playoff victory over compatriot Oliver Wilson.

Six-times major winner Faldo established his own course design company in the early 1990s when he was the world's number one golfer.

The Briton has worked on projects in five continents and was particularly proud of his course in the Chinese capital.

"I am sure the golfers in search of the open championship of the world's largest and fastest-growing golf territory will find it a sufficiently worthy test of their mettle," said Faldo.

This week's tournament is being co-sanctioned by the European and Asian tours.



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