Masters Champion Danny Willett was joined by Ryder Cup heavyweights Ian Poulter and Patrick Reed as well as Chinese stars Liang Wen-chong and Humphrey Wong to officially launch the UBS Hong Kong Open.
The star players were joined by officials from UBS, the Hong Kong Government, the Hong Kong Golf Club and the Hong Kong Golf Association to promote the city’s longest-running sporting event.
In keeping with the organizers’ commitment to enhance accessibility to the tournament, entry to the first two rounds on Thursday 8 and Friday 9 December will be free of charge.
The initiative follows on the success of last year’s free Thursday entry when over 10,000 fans came to see some of the world’s premier golfers in action, triggering record attendance of 42,099 spectators.
Willett became the first European to win the Masters since José Maria Olazábal in 1999 with a brilliant final-round performance which saw him overtake Jordan Spieth at the top of the leaderboard to secure his first Major championship trophy.
The Englishman, fresh from a two-week break, is anticipating a superb week at the Hong Kong Golf Club.
“We’ve been to Hong Kong a couple of times me and my wife, it’s a great city. Loads to do and things to see and obviously different cultures all in one mixing pot.
“We played a few holes today and the course is in really good shape. You’ve got to put your ball on the fairway to be able to spin it into the greens. It’s just a good, solid golf course. You look at the winners that you’ve had around here over the last ten years, and you know, there are some stellar names and great players that have won around this golf course.
“I think that just goes to show how strong the course is. You’ve got to play some good golf and put your ball in the fairway, and obviously roll in a few putts. If you do that come the end of the week, you’re going to have a good chance.”
Poulter, one of Europe’s greatest Ryder Cup players, won the UBS Hong Kong Open in 2010 – one of 16 victories around the globe for the 40 year old, who will bring his own brand of vibrant passion to the Hong Kong Golf Club this week. The Englishman endured a near six-month injury lay-off in 2016 and he is delighted to be back in action and feels ready to win again.
He said: “My confidence level is always there. I’m not half-empty guy. I’m a half-full guy. So that’s never going to leave. I’m as ambitious as I’ve always been and I always look to perform well. I always want to put pressure on myself and I always demand big things. So that will never change. I am really looking forward to this week because we are back at a golf course that I love and that gives me confidence. If I can make a few more putts this week I think I have a great chance to pick that trophy up on Sunday.”
After an inspired performance at The Ryder Cup, American Reed is hoping to challenge for his second European Tour title the UBS Hong Kong Open. The 26 year old has risen to number eight on the Official World Golf Ranking and is looking to justify his status as one of the pre-tournament favourites to lift the title.
“The golf course here is one of the best short golf courses I’ve ever played. It’s not long at all. It’s short. It’s really narrow. It gives you all different kinds of shots you need to hit. It really tests your game in a lot of different ways, and a lot of different unique ways, rather than other golf courses. It’s a fun place. I’m so excited to be back and hopefully put on a good show this week.
“My aggressive style of play cost me the tournament last year. The biggest thing you can’t do is you can’t make the careless errors. There’s a lot of times last year where being the aggressive nature that I am in golf, I went for a lot of things I shouldn’t have and it cost a lot of bogeys for me. It was definitely the difference of being — winning the tournament and finishing third.
“So this year’s go around, I’m not going to be as aggressive off the tees, but we’re still going to be really aggressive with those irons into the greens.”