By Olle Nordberg, Former Asian Tour and European Tour professional
A big week ahead for a lot of Asian Tour players with concurrent events being held in China and Korea, the approximately US$2.9 million Volvo China Open and the just over US$ 1 million GS Caltex Maekyung Open Golf Championship.
Both events have a long and storied history, with the inaugural Volvo China Open played in 1995 and the GS Caltex Maekyung Open Golf Championship going all the way back to 1982.
Volvo China Open
As the Volvo China Open has been played at a number of different courses over the years, this is only the second time the event will be played at Genzon Golf Club in Shenzhen. On the previous occasion in 2014, Alexander Levy of France beat Tommy Fleetwood by four shots to capture the trophy against a world-class field that also included Francesco Molinari, Ian Poulter, Henrik Stenson and Rafa Cabrera-Bello.
Last year’s champion Alexander Bjork of Sweden will be keen to the defend the trophy he won at Topwin G&CC outside of Beijing by one stroke over Adrian Otaegui, but will likely get a strong challenge from some of these players below:
The highest OWGR ranked player in the field at number 39, he is also a past champion of the event winning the 2016 edition by three shots. Li has had a solid start to the year, finishing second to Dustin Johnson in the Saudi International and tied ninth in the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.
He will be looking to become the first Chinese player to win his National Open twice.
The current number one player in the Habitat for Humanity Standings and winner of the recent Maybank Championship, Hend will be coming in with good form and well rested after a few weeks back home in Jacksonville, Florida.
He has had some success at Genzon GC in past European Tour events, finishing tied-fourth in the Shenzhen International in 2016 and tied-15th in the 2015 edition. Will be very familiar with the course layout and conditions, which may be an advantage against other “Asian Tour only” players.
Having been on a hot streak since late 2018, Jazz has had seven top-5’s in his last 11 events going back to last December, including a win at the SMBC Singapore Open in January. He has risen all the way to number 72 on the OWGR and have already secured starts in the US PGA Championship in May, and The Open Championship in July.
As well as he has been playing of late, there is no reason why he shouldn’t be a contender this week yet again.
Already a two-time winner of the Volvo China Open in 2017 and 2014, Levy is currently the only player to have won this event twice.
His best finish of 2019 has been a fifth-place at the Saudi International, but if the expression “horses for courses” means anything, he might prove a difficult player to beat.
Of players teeing it up this week is at Genzon GC his record is second to none: a win at the 2014 Volvo China Open, and a fourth and eight-place in the Shenzhen International here bodes well for his chances this week.
Maybe the hottest player on the European Tour at the moment, coming off a win at last week’s Trophee Hassan II in Morocco. He also has a third-place finish at the recent Hero Indian Open, and back-to-back tied-seconds at the Oman Open and Commercial Bank Qatar Masters in early March.
Campillo also finished third in last year’s edition of the Volvo China Open, and it would not be surprising to see him better that this year.
The 2014 Asian Tour Order of Merit champion has shown good form since late last year when he captured the Alfred Dunhill Championship in South Africa. Finished fifth in Morocco last week and tied-tenth in the WGC- Mexico Championship which has been his best results this calendar year.
Lipsky was also in good position to win last month’s Maybank Championship, sitting in second place after three rounds before falling back with a final round 74.
He also has good knowledge of the course this week, having finished tied-fifth in the 2017 edition of the Shenzhen International.
GS Caltex Maekyung Open Golf Championship
The GS Caltex Maykyung Open Golf Championship is one of those tournaments that has almost exclusively been held at the same course in its whole history. It has only ventured elsewhere on a few occasions since its inception in 1982 and has been held at Namseoul Country Club since 2006.
An astounding fact about the event is that no foreign-born player has won at Namseoul Country Club since Brandt Jobe did so in 1995, a full 24 years.
Because of this fact alone, the Korean players will remain heavy favorites this week and none more so then than the defending champion Sanghyun Park.
The 2018 Asian Tour Rookie of the Year holds an impeccable record in the GS Caltex Maekyung Open Golf Championship. In the last five editions Park has won the event twice (2016 & 2018), finished Runner-Up (2014) and tied-third (2017).
While he will be trying to become the first three-time winner of the event, there is at least a few more home-grown stars likely among those who will try to try to deny him that honor:
The winner of this event in 2017, Lee finished his Japan Tour season strongly in 2018, with three top-10s in his last four events and is currently ranked number 255 on the OWGR. In addition to his win here in 2017, he also finished tied-fifth in 2018, and tied-seventh in 2016.
Having won here in 2015, finished runner-up in 2017, and sixth in 2016, Moon certainly has an affinity for the course. Having graduated from the Asian Tour Q-School in December last year, he will have a chance to leverage one of his favorite tour-stops into securing his playing rights for the 2020 Asian Tour season.
Opened his 2019 campaign in great fashion by finishing tied-fifth in the SMBC Singapore Open, thereby securing his place in The Open Championship field at Royal Portrush in July. Mun also had a good year in 2018 and finished third on the KPGA Tour money list, in a season that included a win in the 61st KPGA Championship, and three more top-5s on the KPGA and Asian Tours.
Of course, there are other in-form players wanting to get their hands on the trophy, and the winners-jacket that comes along with. Among the top candidates are these players below:
Just coming off a win at last week’s Butra Heidelberg Cement Brunei Championships ADT event in Brunei, Prom has had a good start to his 2019 season. Starting the year by finishing tied-fifth at the SMBC Singapore Open and qualifying for The Open Championship, Prom also won the Singha Thailand Masters on the All Thailand Golf Tour in March.
He has won in Korea previously, taking home the trophy at the 2006 SK Telecom Open.
Already a two-time winner on the Professional Golf Tour of India (PGTI) in 2019, the most recent victory only two weeks ago at the Delhi-NCR Open Golf Championship, he also finished tied-tenth at the Hero Indian Open and inside the top-20 at both the Maybank Championship and Magical Kenya Open.
Very much due for his first Asian tour victory soon.