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Zhang Lian-Wei returns to scene of first win

Chinese ace Zhang Lian-wei is hoping a return to the venue that launched him to stardom will shoot him to more glory at the US$1 million Enjoy Jakarta HSBC Indonesia Open which tees off on Thursday.

The self-taught Zhang claimed the first of his five Asian Tour titles at Emeralda Golf Club a decade ago when he won the Volvo Asian Matchplay Championship. With Indonesia 's national Open moving back to Emeralda this week, Zhang will be gunning for a victory in a bid to end his three-year winless run.

“I will aim to win here as it was truly a memorable triumph back in 1996. That victory pushed me harder to strive for success,” said Zhang today. “The course is different now and looks a lot tougher and more challenging but I hope to adapt well and play consistently."

The Indonesian success 10 years ago sparked Zhang's meteoric rise in Asia where he went on to win four more titles, including the co-sanctioned Singapore Masters in 2003 where he beat Ernie Els of South Africa with a birdie on the 72nd hole.

However, amongst the players standing in Zhang's way include Thai sensation Thaworn Wiratchant, last year's Asian Tour number one and currently sixth on the UBS Order of Merit.

Thaworn has taken a humble approach this week as he defends his title. The Indonesia Open holds great significance to the 39-year-old as it was the first of a record four Asian Tour titles that he won in a remarkable 2005 season.

“I am eager to get started but I will not go into the tournament thinking that I am the defending champion. I don't want to put extra pressure on myself. I would like to think that I'm just like any other golfer in the field and will do my best,” said Thaworn.

The Thai is predicting a tough challenge at Emeralda. “It is going to be interesting as the rough here is unforgiving. Even the greens are very tricky,” said Thaworn, who won last year's title with a 25-under-par winning total at Cengkareng Golf Club.

Two-time Asian Tour number one Thongchai Jaidee is bent on redemption as he aims to overcome a bittersweet defeat two weeks ago. At the Malaysian Open, Thongchai was prevented a historic treble by Korean Charlie Wi who edged the Thai by one stroke.

“I worked really hard on my swing the whole of last week. My swing has improved and I'm looking forward to a great time here,” said Thongchai.

“I have a positive feeling coming into this tournament as I've been practising hard. My game is getting better. I am looking at improving on my putting but besides that, everything else has been really good,” he added.

The other title contenders include UBS Order of Merit leader Wi, Filipino stalwart Frankie Minoza, Thai prodigy Chinarat Phadungsil and India 's Shiv Kapur, last season's Volvo Masters of Asia champion.

The Enjoy Jakarta HSBC Indonesia Open is co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour and European Tour. Among the European top guns who will tee up are Spaniard Iganicio Garrido, Dane Anders Hansen and Stephen Dodd of Wales .

Winner of two European Tour individual titles and part of the World Cup winning team for Wales last November, Dodd is hoping to launch a title charge here.

“I have not had a great spell this season so far but your year is based on the whole season, not the first month or two,” said Dodd. “I have just altered the ball position ever so slightly and it has made a bit of difference. I am hoping to take that improvement onto the course,” he said.

March 1, 2006


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