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Return of the champions

Updated: 2013-11-01 09:35

Return of the champions

Defending HSBC Champion Ian Poulter is joined by four of the world's leading golfers on the rooftop of The Peninsula Hotel, Shanghai, for the official launch of this year's event.[Photo provided to]

Five of the world's leading golfers today joined performers from a renowned Chinese opera company to celebrate the return of "Asia's Major" to Shanghai.

Three reigning Major champions were amongst the quintet who recreated a traditional returning heroes' scene with performers from the Shanghai Jingju Company on a rooftop overlooking The Bund, Shanghai's historic riverfront.

Major champions Phil Mickelson (The Open Championship), Justin Rose (US Open) and Jason Dufner (USPGA Championship) were joined by defending HSBC Champion Ian Poulter and World Number Six Rory McIlroy for the official launch of this week's WGC-HSBC Champions tournament (Oct 31 – Nov 3) on the roof of The Peninsula Hotel, Shanghai.

Following a one year hiatus at Mission Hills, the recently upgraded WGC-HSBC Champions this week returns to its spiritual home in Shanghai and to celebrate the occasion the five players were presented with ceremonial cloaks and traditional weapons such as swords, spears and halberds during the rooftop performance.

More than 40 of the world's top 50 players will line up for the $8.5 million showpiece at the Sheshan International Golf Club in what is the highest quality field of golfers ever assembled in Asia.

World Number Three Phil Mickelson said: "The WGC-HSBC Champions is recognised around the world as one of golf's top events and I think the recent changes only underline that fact and it is certainly one of my favourite World Golf Championship events. I've won twice at the Sheshan International Golf Club so it is a course I feel excited to return to. I am always made to feel so welcome by the Chinese golf fans that I can't wait to try to win my third title."

Defending champion Ian Poulter added: "It is going to be a tall order to defend my title this year against such a strong field. Justin, Phil and Jason won the three most recent Majors and are obviously the in-form guys of the moment. I love playing in China and really feed off the enthusiasm and encouragement I get from the fans there so whatever happens, I know it will be a great week."

HSBC Global Head of Sponsorship & Events Giles Morgan said: "The landscape of Asian golf has changed beyond all recognition in the last decade and our flagship WGC-HSBC Champions event has been one of the catalysts for this incredible growth. Ten years ago it would have been inconceivable to imagine more than 40 of the world's top 50 players taking part in a tournament in Asia but here we are preparing for just that and the most international field ever assembled in the region is here in Shanghai.

"Since we first came to China in 2005 we have seen Asian golf come of age but the speed of progress at all levels of the game has been amazing – the return of WGC-HSBC Champions to Shanghai feels like a defining moment."

The 78-man field of the world's best golfers also includes in-form World Number Four Henrik Stenson, two-time winner on the PGA Tour in 2013, Brandt Snedeker, former World Number One, Luke Donald and Graeme McDowell, a multiple winner on both the US PGA and European Tour this season.

For the first time, the WGC-HSBC Champions will become part of the PGA TOUR's FedExCup schedule, with money earned counting as official money on the PGA TOUR, and the winner earning a three-year exemption on the PGA TOUR plus an invitation to the Masters in Augusta.

The WGC-HSBC Champions will also award full FedExCup points, plus the 10 percent premium awarded by all World Golf Championships compared to a regular PGA TOUR event.

With these changes the WGC-HSBC Champions is now in line with the other three World Golf Championships played in the United States and is also a key part of the 2013 European Tour's Final Series. With the exception of The Open Championship, WGC-HSBC Champions is now the highest ranked golf tournament outside of the United States.

The tournament boasts the toughest qualification criteria of all the World Golf Championships, with the majority of the field qualifying only by winning a key tournament on their Tours or by being ranked in the world's top 50.

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