Asia's No. 1 Liang Wenchong will lead the Asian charge at next week's British Open, aware that a strong outing will reinforce the growing strength of the sport in the region.
The 29-year-old will become the first mainland Chinese golfer to compete in the British Open at Royal Birkdale in Southport after gaining an exemption through his success in last season's Asian Tour Order of Merit.
"Being the first Chinese at the British Open is an honor for me," said Liang. "I hope to play to my best ability and produce a good result. It will be important for golf in Asia and China."
Liang will be part of a strong Asian contingent who will feature in the year's third major. Malaysia's Danny Chia, Angelo Que of the Philippines, Thailand's Prayad Marksaeng, Singapore's Lam Chih Bing, Japan's Yoshinobu Tsukada and Australian duo Scott Strange and Adam Blyth will also lineup at Royal Birkdale.
This will be Liang's third appearance in a major following last year's appearance at the US PGA Championship and the US Masters in April. On both occasions, however, the tenacious Chinese star missed the halfway cut and naturally will be hoping to be third time lucky at Royal Birkdale.
"My experience at the Masters was especially good. I know what to expect in a big event and hopefully this time, I will play in all four rounds. I was nervous playing in front of the big crowds at the Masters so I will learn from that. Golf is such a difficult game to predict and you'll never know what will happen. All I can say is that I will play my hardest," said Liang.
A trip to the links at Royal Birkdale is poised to test Liang's game to the fullest, especially when his only previous experience on a links course was at the former Dunhill Cup in St. Andrews, Scotland.
"I enjoyed St. Andrews but during that week, the weather was nice and the winds were not blowing. I know the British Open will be very gusty but I am comfortable playing in those conditions as my ball flight is normally low and I feel I have good ball control," said Liang, who will play in the Barclays Scottish Open this week as part of his major preparation.
Liang shot to Asia's No. 1 after a stellar season in 2007 where he won once and posted eight other top-10s. While he has yet to reproduce his winning form this year, Liang has achieved four top-10s, twice each on the Asian Tour and in Japan.
"At the start of the year, I wasn't happy with the way I was playing as I was thinking too much about the Masters. But once that was over, I started playing a lot better and the results started to show," said Liang.
(Agencies via Shanghai Daily July 11, 2008)