Kuala Lumpur: China’s Zhang Lian-wei believes that he still has what it takes to compete at the highest level when he tees off at the Maybank Malaysian Open on Thursday.
Zhang, who is playing at this week’s US$2.5 million showpiece through his ranking on the Asian Tour, is looking forward to the challenge from the star-studded field that has assembled at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club.
Newly crowned Masters champion Charl Schwartzel of South Africa, world number one and PGA Championship winner Martin Kaymer of Germany, reigning British Open winner Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa and world number nine Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland will make a memorable 50th anniversary of Malaysia’s national championship by headlining the event.
“I believe that the advantage I have over the rest of the field is the invaluable experience that I’ve gained throughout my playing career. I want to remain competitive by continuing to play and hopefully win more tournaments,” said Zhang.
While the 45-year-old veteran, long regarded as the flag bearer and ambassador of Chinese golf, may be reaching the twilight of his career, he still has fond memories of his playing career on the Tour and is heartened by the young talents coming through the ranks on the Asian Tour.
“I’ve won five titles on the Asian Tour and every victory is a memorable one,” said Zhang who first put China golf on the world map with his stellar performances on the Asian Tour.
“There is a lot of young talent coming through and it’s good to know that there is the next generation of golfers like Noh Seung-yul (defending champion for this week’s Maybank Malaysian Open) ready to step up. This bodes well for the development of golf in the region,” added Zhang who was also the first mainland Chinese to be invited to play in the Masters in 2004.
While Zhang has one eye on winning the elusive Seagram Trophy which will be presented to the winner this week, he hopes that he will continue to be the role model that young golfers in China can look up to through his achievements.
“I want to support the growth and development of the young golfers in China. They’re the future of golf in China and I want to share my experience and impart my knowledge of the game to them,” said Zhang who will have a former Hong Kong amateur player as his caddy this week.
Photo - Asian Tour
Asian Tour GolfGreedy.com