Chinese, S. Korean pros head for Australian events

Updated: 2009-11-27 22:10

BEIJING - Li Chao and Lee Seong-ho will lead strong Chinese and South Korean contingents in both next week's Australian Open and the Australian PGA Championship presented by Coca-Cola, the back-to-back events concluding the inaugural OneAsia season.

The 1.2 million U.S. dollars Australian Open will be held from December 3-6 at the New South Wales Golf Club outside Sydney, while the PGA Championship, from December 10-13, will offer the same purse at the Hyatt Regency Coolum on Queensland's Sunshine Coast.

Lee, 23, currently lies third in the Korean Tour Order of Merit after winning two titles this year. Hong Chang-kyu, 37, and Hong Soon-sang, 28, have also won in 2009 and are part of a 29-strong contingent from the Korean Tour, including five players in the top 15 on the Order of Merit.

Li, who won the China Tour Order of Merit in 2005 and 2007, and Liao Guiming, who topped last year's money list, are the leading lights arriving from China.

The 29-year-old Li is returning to Australia two years after travelling alone to compete in the 2007 Australian PGA Championship, when he withdrew after the first round with chest pains.

"Many star players will be competing in both events, so it's my chance to learn from them and to improve," said Li, who won a record eight titles on the China Tour from 2005 to 2008.

"I'm in better condition than last time so I'm looking forward to the trip. I'm also very happy because the re are many Chinese players competing, so I won't be alone. It's very good for me as we can all help each other."

Australian stars including Geoff Ogilvy and Adam Scott and popular American John Daly will compete in both events, while former world number ones Fred Couples and Vijay Singh will star at the Open and PGA respectively.

Kunming-based pro Chen Jian is also excited about competing Down Under as the 34-year-old concludes his most successful season, which included a playoff victory over Australian Rowan Beste in June's Luxehills Golf Championship in Chengdu.

"Many of my friends have been asking me what it feels like to be playing big events in Australia with players like Fred Couples, Vijay Singh, Adam Scott, Geoff Ogilvy and John Daly. They're all superstars on the US PGA Tour, so it will be a great chance for me to learn from them," said Chen, 34.

"I've never played an event with famous players like this, so I'm excited and looking forward to the two weeks in Australia . I've done some research on the two courses so I know more about the greens and hope my preparation will help me score well."

Liao, 32, is another of China's top players and won last year's Sofitel Golf Championship in Nanjing and recorded two runner-up finishes on his way to winning the China Tour Order of Merit for the first time.

South Korean teenager Eom Jae-woong, who is based in Qingdao, will also be flying down from China. This year the talented 19-year-old finished runner-up once and sixth twice in three China Tour events while also competing on the Korean Tour.