Macao, Sep 6 (IANS) Reigning Asian Tour No.1 Anirban Lahiri of India and world No.13 Branden Grace of South Africa will lend their star credentials to the Venetian Macao Open golf tournament next month, it was announced on Tuesday.
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.
Lahiri, who represented India in the recent Olympic Games, said in an Asian Tour release: “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.”
Indian star Lahiri, winner of the Asian Tour Order of Merit in 2015 and the Venetian Macao Open in 2014, has been defending champion Scott 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 Bengaluru 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.
“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,” Lahiri said.
“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.”
Europe’s Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland earlier confirmed their participation in the $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,” 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.
“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.”
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.