World number two Lee Westwood has replaced Ernie Els in the Shui On Land China Golf Challenge from October 10-16 after the South African withdrew from the week-long, 18-hole event due to personal reasons.
The Englishman’s participation means the Shui On Land China Golf Challenge boasts two of the world’s top four players after Rory McIlroy moved to fourth in the official world golf ranking following his joint-third finish in the Omega European Masters on Sunday.
Westwood, who has already won two titles in Asia this year, joins McIlroy, their Ryder Cup teammate Ian Poulter and Chinese number one Liang Wen-chong for the innovative, made-for-television tournament.
The four golfers will compete over two or three holes at each of eight courses in Shanghai (October 10), Beijing (October 11 and 12), Dalian (October 13), Chongqing (October 14), Dongguan (October 15) and Macau (October 16). The players will also participate in pro-ams and coaching clinics at selected venues.
After each day’s golf, Liang will play the role of host as he shows Westwood, Poulter and McIlroy the culture and attractions of each city. Destinations include the ‘Shanghai Xintiandi’ entertainment district and Shui On Land’s Tiandi development in Chongqing, featuring the famous ‘Shark Bar’ in the Chongqing 88 boutique hotel.
“I’ve played in China before, but I’m really excited about the Shui On Land China Golf Challenge because we’ll be visiting six cities spread across the country and playing eight top-class courses. China is really booming and each time I visit I’m always surprised at how it’s changing, so this event should be a real eye opener,” Westwood said.
“Along with the golf, this will be a sightseeing tour with good friends. I’m mates with Ian and Rory from the European Tour and I’ve played with Liang a few times, although I’m going to know him a lot better after this. None of the rest of us speaks Chinese, so Liang will be the most important player there!” Vincent Lo, Chairman of Shui On Land, believes the addition of the world number two has boosted the calibre of the field.
“We’re delighted that Lee Westwood will compete in the inaugural Shui On Land China Golf Challenge, which now features two of the world’s top four players,” Lo said. “Lee will enjoy a unique tour around China and visit many dynamic cities and spectacular golf courses for the first time, so we welcome him aboard this momentous journey.”
Last year, Westwood was runner-up in the Masters and British Open and then succeeded Tiger Woods as world number one in October, topping the world ranking for 17 weeks.
The Englishman then regained top spot in April after winning the Indonesia Masters and also won the following week’s Ballantine’s Championship in South Korea before conceding the number one spot to compatriot Luke Donald in late May.
With Els’ recent progression through the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup playoffs on-going, his extended schedule meant he has been unable to spend as much time with his family as originally planned. He admitted his withdrawal from the Shui On Land China Golf Challenge was a difficult decision.
“I was really looking forward to this unique golf challenge across China. I’ve been playing tournament golf in China for a number of years and have seen the game grow there, so an opportunity to carry that on in a unique format like this was going to be real fun,” Els said.
“The chance to spend a week with Liang, Rory and Ian playing some of the greatest golf courses in China is a hard thing to give up, but with such a busy schedule, I had a difficult decision to make.
I’m sure it will be a great success and I wish the organisers and my tour colleagues the best of luck. I’m just sorry I won’t be able to be there, but hope I can participate next year.”
One of golf’s most innovative competitions, the Shui On Land China Golf Challenge will be broadcast globally on Golfing World and distributed internationally by IMG Media, while Sina, the largest Chinese-language infotainment web portal, is the official media partner.
Host venues include the Tomson Shanghai Pudong Golf Club and Reignwood Pine Valley Golf Club in Beijing, which have both hosted European Tour co-sanctioned tournaments, as well as the 36-hole Red Flag Valley in Dalian.
Shui On Land China Golf Challenge 2011 schedule
October 10: Shanghai – Tomson Shanghai Pudong Golf Club
October 11: Beijing – Reignwood Pine Valley Golf Club
October 12: Beijing – Topwin Golf and Country Club & Jade Island International Golf Club
October 13: Dalian – Red Flag Valley
October 14: Chongqing – Sun Kingdom Golf Club
October 15: Dongguan – Long Island Golf and Country Club
October 16: Macau – Caesars Golf Macau