At the halfway stage of the WGC-HSBC Champions at Mission Hills (to be won by Ian Poulter with a score of 21 under par), players, organizers and fans had the opportunity to reflect on the first two days of play on the Olazabal Course and the impact of bringing a show-piece event of its kind to China’s most populous province.
For a number of players competing the US$7 million purse International Federation of PGA Tours sanctioned event, playing in China is a regular occurrence and a key component of their tournament schedules as they look to bolster their positions on tour money lists and reap the financial rewards of playing professional golf in the sport’s frontier nation. But for others it’s an entirely new experience.
Talking about his first impressions of China, having landed earlier in the week, 2012 Masters champion Bubba Watson commented that it was “just like the movies.”
Commenting on the venue and the quality of field, Luke Donald added, “I was here a few years back for the Goodwill Trophy but this is obviously a big event for golf, a big event in China and Asia, and I’m excited to be a part of it.”
Whether an old hand or a relative newcomer to China’s golf scene, the venue for the 2012 tournament is certainly attracting the attention of players and spectators alike.
Mission Hills is no stranger to staging international golf tournaments having brought the World Cup of Golf to its neighbouring resort in Shenzhen in 2007 and hosted it ever since. But the WGC-HSBC Champions is something different, attracting the world’s champion golfers to compete in a different format of play.
As Ryder Cup star player and the ultimate winner Ian Poulter noted: “I’ve played here a number of times, and it’s going to be an exciting week to play in a strokeplay event as opposed to knowing the course as a kind of foursomes and a four-ball course. It’s a strong field, a lot of guys in decent form, so you’re going to have to play well.”
Two time champion and PGA tour veteran Phil Mickelson was equally impressed with the set-up: “It’s a wonderful course. The 15th hole is a great example I think of just a terrific hole. It’s the signature hole here. If you hit a good drive, you can go for the green. If you go for the green, you have water, left, right and difficulty long. It’s just a very fair test, and rewards good shots.”
Chairman and CEO of Mission Hills Group Dr Ken Chu added, “We’re delighted to stage such a prestigious event as the WGC-HSBC Champions here at Mission Hills. It was always my father’s objective to bring the world’s best golfers to China and for them to compete on top championship courses. I think we’ve achieved that with the Olazabal course at Mission Hills Dongguan and it’s wonderful to see so many golf fans enjoying the spectacle.”
Mission Hills Group www.missionhillschina.com