Lowdown: After the year’s first Major at Augusta, the focus on the European Tour returns when a worldwide field tee it up at the Suzhou Jinji International Golf Club for the Volvo China Open. Returning from the Masters are Graeme McDowell and Henrik Stenson, while other Europeans will be looking to impress Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie, who also makes up a competitive international field.
The China Open only began life in 1995 and over its 15 years it has produced champions such as Simon Dyson, Paul Casey and, most recently, in Beijing, Scott Strange. Last year Australia’s Strange fired a final-round 68 to finish one stroke ahead of Spaniard Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano. Strange will defend his title this year and will be joined by a number of players who have already tasted Tour success in 2010, including Rhys Davies and Pablo Martin. The Gary Player-designed course provides the first ever links venue for the China Open and, with deep sand dunes and pot bunkers, it promises to test the European Tour’s best golfers.
Venue: Suzhou Jinji Lake International Golf Club, Suzhou
Date: Apr 15-18
Course stats: Par 72, 7326 yards
Purse: $2,500,000 Winner: $416,660
Defending champion: Scott Strange (-8)
Thursday 15 – Live on Sky Sports 2 from 12 noon
Friday 16 – Live on Sky Sports 2 from 12 noon
Saturday 17 – Live on Sky Sports 4 from 12 noon
Sunday 18 – Live on Sky Sports 4 from 12 noon
Player Watch: Graeme McDowell – With four European Tour victories to date, the Northern Irishman has grown up playing tough links courses and has already secured three top-20 finishes this season.
Richard Finch – The Englishman tied for third in last year’s China Open and has two second-place finishes to his name in 2010.
Y.E. Yang – The 2009 USPGA champion will head to his home continent following an excellent showing at the Masters, where he finished in a tie for eighth.
Key hole: The 18th. As the toughest hole on the course, the finishing hole requires a pin-point tee shot to evade deep bunkers and tall fescue rough. The second shot typically relies on an accurate long iron or fairway wood to a narrow tiered green.
Skills required: Long and straight tee shots. As a links and wetlands course over 7,300 yards, the Jinji Lake International Golf Club will test a player’s full array of golfing skills. However the ability to evade numerous St Andrews-style fairway bunkers and deep rough will be crucial for success come Sunday afternoon.