As reaction to the conclusion of the European Tour season continues, the tour is preparing for the tee off of the new campaign at the UBS Hong Kong Open this Thursday.
Jon Rahm took home the season-ending DP World Tour Championship title in Dubai as Tommy Fleetwood was crowned the 2017 Race to Dubai champion last week, and the tour immediately turns its attentions to 2018 in Asia.
Fresh from his dramatic money-list triumph, Fleetwood heads straight to Hong Kong to begin his title defence from the off; he finished a respectable tied third here last year.
He will be joined by in-form Justin Rose who’s racked up two wins and a tied fourth in his last three outings, and just missed out on the Race to Dubai title himself. Rose will be confident he can build on his recent success with a return to an event, and course, he won at back in 2015.Embed from Getty Images
The Race to Dubai top two will be joined by fourth-placed Sergio Garcia, who slipped from third after Rahm took gold last week, who has a win and tied fourth of his own in his two previous tour starts.
A collection of other prominent European names will take to the fairways of Hong Kong Golf Club this week including Matthew Fitzpatrick, Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Matteo Manassero and Paul Dunne whilst other past winners Sam Brazel (2016), Scott Hend (2014), Miguel Ángel Jiménez (2004, 2007, 2012 & 2013) and Grégory Bourdy (2009) join Rose in a 126-strong field.
Brazel’s 72nd hole birdie put him one shot ahead of Cabrera-Bello last year and earned him his first European Tour victory and membership for the first time in his career – not bad for a player who entered the week as world-number-480.
This event has ran since 2001 on the European Tour and has been hosted by Hong Kong Golf Club every year. Whilst being only a par 70, the course measures a mere 6,700 yards. With that said, the tree line makes the course tight and tricky and that shows in the winning scores of recent years averaging in the low teens under par.
The bookmakers make Rose (9/2) the clear favourite for this event with Garcia (6/1) second favourite and Fitzpatrick (10/1) and Fleetwood (14/1) further outside.
The shared prize fund and equivalent Race to Dubai points are a lowly $2,000,000 but after Fleetwood began his 2017 campaign with a tied third here, the significance of getting early points on the board cannot be overlooked.