Shanghai: Rising Indian golfer Gaganjeet Bhullar and his idol Jeev Milkha Singh will spearhead the country`s challenge at the WGC-HSBC Champions in China next week.
They are the only Indians in the USD seven million event at the Mission Hills Golf Club`s Olazabal course in Shenzhen from November 1-4.
Current Asia number one Thaworn Wiratchant and former champions Jeev and Thongchai Jaidee will be the star Asian Tour players in the field.
A total of eight Asian Tour players -- Jbe Kruger of South Africa, Japan`s Masanori Kobayashi, Bhullar, American rookie David Lipsky, Bangladeshi Siddikur and Thailand`s Prom Meesawat and Thaworn -- qualified for the event via the Asian Tour`s Order of Merit.
Thongchai, the only Asian tour player to win three Order of Merit crowns, earned his place in the elite field by virtue of winning the Wales Open in June while Jeev, Asia`s number one in 2006 and 2008, booked his spot after winning the Scottish Open.
Australian Marcus Fraser, second on the Merit list, will also feature in the final World Golf Championships event of the year.
Jeev is enjoying some of his best golf in recent times after staying injury free for most of the season. He became the first Indian to win the Scottish Open, winning a play-off against Francesco Molinari.
"If you do the right stuff, good things will happen. That`s what happened. I was working harder. The most important thing is that when a player is injury free, you can work harder. It gives you more confidence," said Jeev.
Title holder Martin Kaymer of Germany, the man who scored the winning point in the Ryder Cup last month, will headline a stellar field along with nine of his teammates including world number four Lee Westwood, fifth-ranked Justin Rose and Ian Poulter.
Masters Tournament winner Bubba Watson, two-time HSBC Champions winner Phil Mickelson and Open champion Ernie Els will also figure at Mission Hills.
Since the tournament`s inauguration in 2005, YE Yang of Korea has been the only Asian to win the HSBC Champions but with the current form of the Asian Tour stars, hopes will be running high for another winner to emerge from the Asian Tour.
The 45-year-old Thaworn is the man in form. Despite his advanced age, the evergreen Thai has claimed three titles this season to rocket to top spot on the Order of Merit. He also holds the most Asian Tour wins with 15 titles, two ahead of Thongchai.
Thaworn finished tied eighth in the inaugural HSBC Champions in 2005, the year he became Asia`s number one. He said age has not slowed him down in his search for more silverware.
"As I`m older now, I can concentrate better in my game. I`m not getting angry about the things around me. I`ve got more experience. As I`m older, why do I need to get angry? If I get mad, I won`t make a score. So I`ve changed and it`s good for my game," said Thaworn.
Although Thongchai now trails Thaworn in the most wins category, the former enjoyed a career milestone by winning his first title on European soil in June. He believes the Welsh win, along with Jeev`s triumph in Scotland in July, has reiterated the strength of Asian golf.
"In golf, you`ll never know who will win," said Thongchai. "Sometimes, if it`s your week, if you don`t make mistakes, you will have a chance."
Lipsky and Kobayashi will make their debuts in a World Golf Championships event after enjoying spectacular rookie seasons on the Asian Tour.
They graduated from Qualifying School in January and went on to win a tournament each.
We're building him (RvP) up now because of the World Cup. It’s a pity but we have to or he’ll never be fit.
Louis van Gaal