Macau, October 21: Spanish veteran star Miguel Angel Jimenez plans to enjoy a winning week in his debut appearance at the US$900,000 Venetian Macau Open which starts on Thursday.
The 50-year-old, who has won 25 titles around the world, hopes to make up for last week’s disappointment when a stomach bug dented his title defence at the Hong Kong Open but he is determined to make quick amends at the Macau Golf and Country Club.
The likeable Spaniard will be amongst the headliners at the full-field Asian Tour tournament, which is offering its highest prize fund since the event’s inauguration in 1998.
The elite field at the Venetian Macau Open includes four-time Major champion Ernie Els, three-time Asian Tour number one Thongchai Jaidee, Chinese stars Liang Wen-chong and Zhang Lian-wei, title holder Scott Hend of Australia, who also triumphed last week, and 17 of the top-20 players from the current Order of Merit.
“I’ve been playing a long time in Asia and I love playing over here where I have several wins,” said Jimenez, who has a total of six victories in the region.
“I played nine holes yesterday and it’s a nice course. I feel better now after last week’s food poisoning which wasn’t a great way to play as I was very sick. However, I’m fine now and I’m ready to fight for the Venetian Macau Open title. We have a strong field with Ernie, Scott and the top Asians here, so it will be a big fight.”
Els, who is an honorary member and international ambassador of the Asian Tour, finished joint third in his debut at the Venetian Macau Open last season and is ready to mount another title charge after finishing tied fifth in Hong Kong despite playing with a sore back in the final round.
“I’m happy to be back in the Venetian Macau Open. I don’t think we stay in a resort like this anywhere else in the world which makes it totally different,” said Els, who has a partnership with this week’s title sponsor where he wears The Venetian Macao logo on his right collar, back of hat and back yolk.
“The back is better. It locked up on me on Sunday and I felt quite difficult playing. My trainer got in late last week and it’s getting better and I’m feeling really good for this week,” he said.
With a buoyant Hend arriving for his defence in winning form, Els is predicting the long-hitting Aussie’s name to show up again on the leaderboard.
“Every time I play, Scotty wins … I should travel around the world with him. He’s playing great, last week was a great win. I’m sure he’s going to play the European Tour a lot and I hope he doesn’t forget about the Asian Tour. He’s going through a golden period now. I will try to play as good as I can and see where we finish. Anybody around here can win. It’ll be a good battle out there,” said Els.
Hend revealed that reverting back to his old driver has helped turn around his poor run of form which included five missed cuts in his last six tournaments before his Hong Kong high.
“I feel great. It was an exciting week last week and hopefully this week will be as exciting if I can deliver the same level of golf,” said the 41-year-old. “I went back to my old driver from three years ago. I loaned it to a mate in Bangkok and I went back there after the Mercuries Taiwan Masters and asked if I could have it back.
“He gave me the head and I put in a shaft and played three rounds with it and started hitting in on the short grass. I went to Hong Kong last week with the belief that I could get it on the fairway.
“Driving is not the ‘be it and end all’. But if you’re coming out of trees all the time, it’s hard to make birdies. There was a lot less pressure on my short game and I thought that was the key last week.
“It’s very hard to back up a win … not impossible but very hard. I haven’t got great expectations but you’ll never know. I know where my game is at the moment and it’s a steady progression. I think I’m getting there and playing as good as I was last year.”
Zhang, the only two-time champion at the Macau Open, is not writing off his chances of landing a third title in the city which he calls his second home despite restricting his playing schedule these days. “You’ll never know in golf. I’ll try my best to get my third crown in the Macau,” said the five-time Asian Tour champion.
The Venetian Macau Open is jointly organised by Macau Sport Development Board of Macau SAR Government (MSDB) and Golf Association of Macau. It is sanctioned by both the Asian Tour and the Golf Association of Macau, and promoted by IMG. The Venetian Macao is the title sponsor of the event for a third successive year.
Sponsors joining The Venetian Macao in support of the tournament include Rolex, Air Macau, Blue Girl, Lamborghini and Hong Kong Descente, which carries both the Le Coq Sportif Golf Collection, Twinwood Wine and Munsingwear.
For more details on the Venetian Macau Open, please visit www.thevenetianmacauopen.com.
Source: Asian Tour