Els hopes to start Asian swing in style

Ernie Els of South Africa aims to kick-start a four-week Asian swing by winning the US$1.3 million Hong Kong Open which starts on Thursday.

The four-time Major champion will be making his first appearance in the 56th edition of the prestigious event at the Hong Kong Golf Club before heading to Macau, Malaysia and China.

Els forms part of the elite field at the Hong Kong Open alongside title holder Miguel Angel Jimenez of Spain, Asia’s first Major champion Y.E. Yang of Korea and current Asian Tour number one David Lipsky of the United States.

Reigning Asian Tour Order of Merit winner Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand, Anirban Lahiri of India, Prom Meesawat of Thailand, who finished second last year and Nicolas Colsaerts of Belgium will also feature in the event sanctioned by the Asian Tour and European Tour.

Els last played in Hong Kong 18 years ago and he is eager to stop Jimenez from winning the Hong Kong Open for a record fifth time.

“Miguel, I think his record speaks for itself, winning here four times. He obviously loves the layout and knows the greens. So I’d love to play with him over the weekend. I know he’s going to be up there on the leaderboard,” said Els.

“I’m actually quietly optimistic about my game and quite excited about my game. But I’d love to get it going here this week and see what Miguel and the rest of the crew does out there,” added the South African, who turns 45 on Friday.

Els accepted an invitation to become an Honorary Member and International Ambassador of the Asian Tour in 2013, a title which he holds in high regard considering his close affinity to Asia.

“The Asian Tour made me their worldwide golf ambassador so that’s a great honour to have. I’ve been playing the Asian Tour, European Tour, South African Tour and I’ve been playing around the world most of my career, so that’s been very special.

“I can see obviously the Asian Tour growing, and golf is so popular out here, not only men’s golf but really a lot in women’s golf, as well.

“People love to play the game of golf out here, and you know, The European Tour, saw the vision, years and years ago to come out here and start getting tournaments together, co sanctioning with the Asian Tour. I think it’s been a very positive move,” said Els.