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Paul Casey upbeat about TCL Classic defence

Holder Paul Casey, last year's runner-up Paul McGinley and European order of merit leader David Howell lead the chase for first prize in the $1 million TCL Classic at Yalong Bay Golf Club in China this week.

Casey beat Irishman McGinley at the second playoff hole 12 months ago. The 28-year-old Briton followed that by winning the China Open at Shenzhen in November, this time edging out compatriot Oliver Wilson in extra holes.

"I am very much looking forward to returning to defend my TCL title," Casey told the European Tour's official website.

"China was obviously a very successful destination for me in 2005. I believe they have added some new tees and bunkers this year but I will bring a lot of confidence to the event as the course is set up well for my game."

Howell, 30, also made a happy trip to China when he held off Tiger Woods to triumph at the inaugural Champions Tournament in Shanghai last November.

"I have great memories of China on and off the course," said the British world number 14, who will draw inspiration this week from his three-shot win over Woods.

"Going head to head with Tiger was absolutely wonderful. Just to be in that position, against the best player in the world, was something I enjoyed tremendously," said Howell.

"I wasn't as nervous as I thought I might be and perhaps that helped going down the stretch. It probably convinced me I can compete with the best players in the world on a regular basis."

McGinley thrilled the galleries at Yalong Bay with a closing 63 last year.

"That was one of the best rounds of my career considering that I had to shoot it to get into a playoff," said the 39-year-old Irishman.

"Losing the playoff wasn't quite as painful as it might normally have been because I had to shoot really low to get there. But no golfer ever likes finishing second and I'll be doing everything I possibly can to go one better this time."

Asian number one Charlie Wi of South Korea and China's Zhang Lian-Wei, who won the 2003 Singapore Masters, are also in the field for the event co-sanctioned by the European and Asian tours.

March 14, 2006


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