Zhang sets sights on Maruyama at Luxehills Chengdu Open

21:32, March 26, 2010      

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Zhang Lianwei will have one eye on long-time Japanese rival Shigeki Maruyama as the 44-year-old competes as part of a powerful Chinese contingent in next week's 1 million U.S. dollars Luxehills Chengdu Open, OneAsia's season-opening event.

Following Liang Wenchong's early confirmation, a total of 50 Chinese pros including Zhang, rising star Alex Wu Ashun and eight-time China Tour winner Li Chao will tee up at Luxehills International Country Club.

However, as Zhang prepares to compete at Luxehills for the first time, he will be looking out for a famous face he first encountered 20 years ago.

"Luxehills should be a really great event, especially as it's the first OneAsia event of the year but also because of so many star players, like Shigeki Maruyama. We're the same generation," Zhang said.

"I first met him at the 1990 Asian Games in Beijing and also played against him in the Visa Dynasty Cup in 2003."

Zhang helped Asia convincingly beat Japan at Mission Hills in the latter team competition, but it was Maruyama who won gold at the 1990 Asiad. Four years later, Zhang won silver in Hiroshima and turned pro later that year, having won his third China Amateur Open.

Zhang and Maruyama have both enjoyed stellar careers and both finished last year in good form. Zhang shot a third-round 63 and eventually finished runner-up to Liang in OneAsia's Midea China Classic last October, while Maruyama won the Golf Nippon Series JT Cup, the Japan Tour's season-ending event.

Zhang, who has won 19 pro titles and was the first Chinese to win a European Tour event and compete in a Major, is keen to show the many loyal fans of Chinese golf's trailblazer that he's still able to compete with Asia-Pacific's best.

"We have a lot of Chinese players competing at Luxehills, including many of our best ones, so this will be a very competitive tournament," Zhang said. "I won in Chengdu many years ago, in the early 1990s, and it has been so many years since I've been there, so I'm looking forward to a fantastic event."

Wu, who's set to follow Zhang and Liang onto golf's world stage, is also excited about OneAsia's season opener, which also features Australians Craig Parry and Scott Strange, and South Korean sensation Kim Kyung-tae.

Still seeking his breakthrough win, the determined 24-year-old had three top-10s on the Asian Tour and finished runner-up in the Dell Championship in Xiamen last year in only his second season as a pro.

"Luxehills will be my first event in China this year. I changed my swing during the winter and I'm now getting my game back, so I hope to have a good score," said Wu, who was set to play in a China Tour event at Luxehills last June, but withdrew after suffering an injury during a practice round.

"There are so many famous players coming to Chengdu , which is exciting. Besides the Australians, South Koreans and Japanese, we'll have one of the strongest Chinese line-ups in an international event in China, so this gives me extra motivation."

Li, who won the 2005 and 2007 Order of Merit on the China Tour, will also be motivated after a closing 67 put him 14th at October's Midea China Classic, his best result on OneAsia.

Liao Guiming, the 2008 China Tour Order of Merit winner, Wu Weihuang, winner of last year's Dell Championship, and big-hitters Yuan Hao and James Su Dong are among China's other top hopes along with Chen Jian, whose victory in last year's Luxehills Golf Championship was his first pro title.

In 2010, OneAsia will stage 11 tournaments for a total of US$13 million in prize money, ultimately seeking to provide players in Asia with an alternative pathway to the PGA Tour and the European Tour.

Source: Xinhua
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