|China's Zhang Lian Wei plays a tee-shot during a practice round ahead of the Enjoy Jakarta HSBC Indonesia Open. |
Memories will come flooding back for pioneering Chinese golfer Zhang Lianwei as he tees off at this week's Enjoy Jakarta HSBC Indonesia
It was 10 years ago that Zhang triumphed in the 1996 Asian Match Play Championship at the Emeralda Golf Club, the venue for this week's tournament.
The victory kick-started Zhang's career by establishing him as one of Asia's top golfers and the winning prize money of US$40,000 proved valuable in taking his career forward.
"I had borrowed money from someone to help me fund my pro career," said Zhang on Tuesday. "After winning the tournament, not only was I able to pay back the money but I was also able to plan my immediate career.
"That was 10 years ago and I'm happy to be back at Emeralda. In that time, the course has improved, I have improved and Asian players have improved.
"Hopefully, I can play well again here and give myself a chance to win the tournament."
Zhang faces tough competition in this year's tournament, which is once again co-sanctioned by the European and Asian Tours and promoted by Parallel Media Asia.
Apart from a strong Asian field led by Thailand's Thongchai Jaidee and Thaworn Wiratchant, Zhang must take on some of the best golfers from the European Tour.
The self-taught former javelin thrower, however, should have no problems dealing with international opposition.
Zhang could tick off a list of big-name golfers he has beaten in tournaments, including Zimbabwe's Nick Price at the fifth playoff hole of the 2002 Macau Open and South African great Ernie Els at the 2003 Singapore Masters, which was his first European Tour title.
Among the European stars challenging Zhang this week is Welshman Stephen Dodd, who had a brilliant 2005 with two Tour titles as well as leading Wales to glory in the WGC - Algarve World Cup in Portugal.
Dodd, however, believes Asian players hold the advantage in Jakarta because of their ability to play well in tropical climates.
"It's very hot and humid, which will suit the Asian players and won't be so good for the overseas players," said Dodd.
"But you cannot control what others do. You can only play your best, and if someone else plays better than you, there's nothing you can do about it."
Dodd is trying to recreate his form of last year and has been making adjustments to his swing.
"It's all about ball positioning," he said. "These things go out of place from time to time. Hopefully it will work out this week."