Zhou has higher hopes for Chinese at Beijing Open golf championship

2008-05-07 15:10:51 Xinhua English

BEIJING, May 7 (Xinhua) -- Zhou Xunshu, one of the most consistent performers on this year's China Tour, believed that seven or eight Chinese players could make the cut at this week's one million U.S. dollars Pine Valley Beijing Open, which starts on Thursday.

The tournament marks the third Asian Tour event to be held in China in four weeks following last month's 2.2 million U.S. dollars Volvo China Open in Beijing and the 2.3 million U.S. dollars BMW Asian Open in Shanghai, which were also sanctioned by the European Tour and China Golf Association. Five Chinese players made it through to the weekend in Beijing, followed by four in Shanghai the following week.

Liang Wenchong, who made the cut in both events along with eight-time China Tour winner Li Chao and teenage amateur Hu Mu, will be missing this week due to his brother's wedding.

However, despite the absence of China's number one, Zhou believes his compatriots are ready to do their country proud at Pine Valley, which is hosting the first tournament to be sanctioned by the Asian Tour, Japan Golf Tour and the China Golf Association.

"This week, I think we'll do better than we have in the past two Asian Tour events, so I think maybe seven or eight of us can make the cut," said Zhou, who has finished sixth, eighth and 22nd in the first three events on this year's China Tour.

"And I think I should be one of those making the cut," laughed Zhou, formerly a security guard at a Guangzhou golf course where he took up the game before turning pro in 2005.

Zhou has only twice before played in Asian Tour events, competing in the Crowne Plaza Open, where he missed the cut by one stroke, and the Volkswagen Masters in Sanya in 2006. However, he didn't play either the China Open or Asian Open last month as he was busy looking after his first child, who was born on April 5.

The birth of his son Yanhan was means Zhou has another family member to look after.

"I'm playing better this year than before. My mental game is stronger, partly because I got married last year, so I have to be more responsible," said the 35-year-old.

"After I got married, I feel I became more mature as a person and a golfer. However, I also feel more pressure in tournaments because I have a family to look after, especially now that I also have a child. This has made me think much harder on the golf course, as it's not just about me."

While Zhou, who is ex-Military Police, has recently made the most of the opportunities offered by the fast-growing China Tour, the legendary Zhang Lianwei is easily the best known of the 31 Chinese players competing in the 156-man field this week.

The 42-year-old, a five-time winner on the Asian Tour and a six-time winner on the China Tour, is in confident mood and for good reason.

In March, he won the China Tour's season-opening Guangzhou Championship and finished runner-up in the Chengdu Championship, while he was a joint second-round leader in last month's Asian Open before fading at the weekend.

"I've been practising a lot recently as I didn't play any tournament last week, so my aim this week is to finish in the top five," he said.

"It's exciting that the Chinese, Japanese and Asian Tours can work together like this. I'm especially happy that the Japan Golf Tour has joined this event, as it has increased the quality of the field," added Zhang, who has played many events in Japan.

The Pine Valley Beijing Open marks the first time the Japan Golf Tour has sanctioned an event outside of Japan and its officials are delighted to see the circuit increase its international profile.

"The Japan Golf Tour is very happy to join the Beijing Open because this is the first time we've been outside of Japan. It's a big step for our Tour to become more international and very important for Japanese golf," said Tadashi Koizumi, Chairman of the Japan Golf Tour Organization.

"With the Olympics in Beijing this year, the city has become the focus of the world, so it's a great honor for the Japan Golf Tour to be here this week."

India's Gaurav Ghei, the defending champion, was especially excited to return to the spectacular Pine Valley Golf Resort and Country Club, which is located in Beijing's Changping district.

"It's great to be back at Pine Valley as I have great memories here and it's in beautiful condition again," Ghei said.

"However, it's always difficult to defend a title and it will be even more so this week because we have a great field from the Asian Tour, many top players from Japan while the local China Touris getting stronger every year."