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Liang Wen-ching ready for Singapore test

China's Liang Wen-chong is ready to step out from the shadows of his more illustrious compatriot Zhang Lian-wei when he takes aim at the US$1 million OSIM Singapore Masters which starts on Thursday.

The 27-year-old Liang has often been touted as China's next big thing in golf and as he settles into his seventh season in the professional ranks, he feels the Lion City could be the launchpad to greater feats and ultimately lead him to play against Tiger Woods on the US PGA Tour.

With five consecutive seasons where he has finished in the top-50 of the Asian Tour's UBS Order of Merit and two fairly good seasons in Japan on his resume, Liang feels ready to land his first major win in the region.

A return to Laguna National Golf and Country Club, this week's venue, has added to Liang's growing confidence. In last year's Singapore Masters, he finished as the top Asian in tied fifth place.

"Mentally, I'm feeling good," said Liang, whose best finish on the Order of Merit was 12th in 2002. "I've got more experience now playing on both the Asian Tour and in Japan and I feel like my game is where I want it to be. I would certainly like to win a big title soon and I hope to play well this week.

"It's a big compliment that people refer me as the next Zhang but I still have to do it (win). I feel I could win in Japan as well," added the 27-year-old, who has posted 15 top-10s from 69 appearances on the Asian Tour since 1999.

Singapore could be a perfect backdrop to herald Liang's arrival on the big stage as Zhang, long regarded as China's pioneer in the professional game, registered his biggest career win yet in 2003 when he upset Ernie Els of South Africa in the Singapore Masters.

"Zhang has achieved so much in his career," said Liang, who has won several events on the China domestic circuit. "I know how to win and I'll keep pushing for it until I achieve this. I played well here last year and I like this week's venue. There isn't as much rough as previously and the greens are good. I'm also pretty happy with my form now (where he finished tied 19th in Indonesia last week)."

Liang added that he would attempt to qualify for the US PGA Tour in two years time. "I think about this occasionally, and will likely go to Qualifying School in 2008. I will be more comfortable doing this once I register a win. I would like to have an exemption safely in hand first in Asia before I venture to the US.

"Europe is not really for me as it's more difficult to get different visas to travel to various parts of the continent. I would definitely like to play on the US PGA Tour," added Liang.

Since finishing fourth in the Volvo China Open as an amateur, Liang has certainly grown in stature. Getting married and becoming a father for the first time last year has also brought about a stability in his life as he seeks for success on Asia's finest fairways.

While Liang has a footnote in Asian golf history where he shot the Tour's 100th hole-in-one in 2002, the Chinese ace, who hails from Zhongshan, the site of China's first modern-day golf course, knows that his career will be measured by the number of career victories.

"You know, I practise very hard to try and realise my goals. I know that is the only way to succeed and I'm putting in every effort to win tournaments," said Liang.

At the Osim Singapore Masters, which is jointly sanctioned by the Asian Tour and European Tour, Liang will have to contend with the likes of title holder Nick Dougherty of England, Thai duo Thaworn Wiratchant and Thongchai Jaidee, India's Shiv Kapur and Jyoti Randhawa and Korea's Charlie Wi, currently leading the UBS Order of Merit.

Last week's winner Simon Dyson of England will also attempt to secure back-to-back triumphs at Laguna National.

March 8, 2006


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