Macao: World number 13 Branden Grace of South Africa and reigning Asian Tour number one Anirban Lahiri of India will lend their star credentials to the Venetian Macao Open next month.
The latest addition of marquee names will ensure the 2016 edition of Macao’s flagship golf championship will boast one of its strongest fields ever in its 17-year history when the prestigious tournament tees off at Macau Golf & Country Club from October 13 to 16.
Title holder Scott Hend of Australia and Europe’s Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland earlier confirmed their participation in the US$1.1 million tournament, the richest full-field Asian Tour event this season.
Grace, 28, will be aiming to secure a winning debut at the Venetian Macao Open following a year which has seen him win twice and post two top-five finishes at the Majors. He also made a name for himself at last year’s Presidents Cup in Korea where he notched a perfect record of five wins in as many matches, becoming only the fifth player in history to produce the feat.
“I am very much looking forward to going to Macao and competing there for the first time. I don’t get to play in Asia very often and with golf growing so fast over there, it is always interesting for me to head out to that part of the world to test myself and compete at the best tournaments such as the Venetian Macao Open,” said the South African star, who holds seven wins on the European Tour and one on the PGA Tour secured at the RBC Heritage earlier this season.
“The Venetian Macao Open will be a difficult but satisfying tournament to win. Scott Hend has proven to be almost unbeatable the last few years, and I heard Darren Clarke is coming out too. Together with the top Asian players, there will be a good mix of high quality golfers to compete against, so I am going to make sure I am ready, keep performing well and hopefully continue to climb the rankings.”
Indian star Lahiri, winner of the Asian Tour Order of Merit in 2015 and the Venetian Macao Open in 2014, has been Hend’s arch rival over the last three years and took turns to hold aloft the famous trophy.
While the Australian cruised to a three-stroke win over Lahiri in 2013 despite a late rally by the Pune native, the result was reversed the following year when Hend let a two-shot lead slip on the final day to lose his title by one.
Fans were treated to a third instalment of the Hend-Lahiri rivalry last year when the two champions found themselves in the all-too-familiar positions of being first and second going into round four. In the end, Hend held firm and became only the second player to win the prestigious tournament twice, after China golf pioneer Zhang Lian-wei who achieved the feat in 2001 and 2002.
Lahiri, who represented India in the recent Olympic Games, said: “The Venetian Macao Open is one of my favourite stops on tour and I have always enjoyed my time at the Macau Golf and Country Club.
“Scott and I get on very well on and off the course and we seem to always bring the best out of each other in Macao. Scott has had a great run in previous years and I hope to even the score this year with a solid performance. We have had intense battles the last two years on Sunday afternoon and I expect the same this year. I have had a fair season with some good results, but it will be wonderful to get a win at the Venetian Macao Open and even up my score with Hendy.”
Inaugurated in 1998, The Venetian Macao became title sponsor of the tournament in 2012 and since then, has seen it develop into one of the most prestigious professional golf tournaments on the Asian Tour.
The 144-player championship will continue to be jointly organised by Sports Bureau of Macao SAR Government (MSB) and the Golf Association of Macau. It is sanctioned by both the Asian Tour and the Golf Association of Macau, and promoted by IMG.
Pun Weng Kun, President, Sports Bureau of Macao SAR Government, said: “The confirmation of Braden and Anirban for the Venetian Macao Open is wonderful news for both the tournament and Macao. With defending champion Scott Hend and a Major winner in the form of Darren Clarke already committed to play, and now to have Braden, who is in the world’s top-15, and Anirban who won the Venetian Macao Open in 2014, fans can look forward a feast of top quality golf at the Macau Golf & Country Club.”
Dr. Wilfred Wong, President of Sands China Ltd., said: “We are delighted to hear the confirmation of two such talented and high profiled players to compete at the Venetian Macao Open. This prestigious event, which we have partnered for five years, is the perfect platform to showcase Macao to the world as a top golfing and travel destination. The participation of these world class golfers will play an important part to achieve this goal. Sands China Ltd looks forward to ensuring all players and fans have a wonderful experience in Macao on-and-off the course at the Venetian Macao Open.”
Kyi Hla Han, Commissioner, Asian Tour added: “The Venetian Macao Open brings together a high quality field every year consisting of the best from the Asia Pacific as well as seasoned tour champions, but with the latest group of players confirmed today, we will have the strongest and most competitive line-up for Macao in recent years. We look forward to showcasing this prestigious tournament to first-timers like Braden and welcoming Anirban back to Macao.”