The Volvo China Open looked to have a long term home in Topwin Golf and Country Club but the event organisers made an 11th hour decision to move the event from the outskirts of Beijing to Genzon Golf Club by the border with Hong Kong. Genzon is a well-regarded golf club which has hosted this and other European Tour events before but the scheduling of the tournament has made this year’s China Open something of a tough sell.
Nevertheless, a number of big names from the European Tour will compete alongside their Asian Tour counterparts this week for a healthy prize fund before next week’s British Masters. Ross Fisher is one of those who will be competing in both events but rather than turning up to Hillside Golf Club knackered, he may well turn up with a spring in his step on the back of a big win in the China Open.
Neil Haworth was very happy with his design of Genzon Golf Club when it opened in 1995 but he was drafted in to make renovations to the course 13 years later. That 2008 work was mostly about refinement and it has resulted in one of the best courses in the Far East.
Haworth did a great job of ensuring that the 7,145 yard layout could not simply be overpowered with the very smart use of hazards including Dragon Lake around which the course is set. Longer hitters can still use their distance at times but strategy is vital around Genzon. Scoring tends to be easier towards the start of both nines whilst the closing holes are more difficult which only adds to the strategic challenge – and excitement.
|Genzon Golf Club||Shenzhen, China||7,145 Yards||CNY20,000,000|
Winning your home open would be the pinnacle of many golfer’s career. Doing exactly that was particularly special for Haotong Li and Ashun Wu as their China Open victories in 2016 and 2015 respectively saw both players break their duck on the European Tour. The event didn’t quite have the same emotional resonance for Alexander Bjork in 2018 or Alexander Levy in 2014 but both men also claimed their maiden European Tour successes at the China Open.
Of those four first time winners, Bjork was by far the shortest price at 40/1 although by 2015 the bookies were aware of Levy’s excellent record in China so he was a general price of 25/1 for his second China Open win.
|Year||Winner||Course||To Par||Winning Margin|
|2018||Alexander Bjork||Topwin Golf and Country Club||-18||1 Stroke|
|2017||Alexander Levy||Topwin Golf and Country Club||-17||Playoff|
|2016||Haotong Li||Topwin Golf and Country Club||-22||3 Strokes|
|2015||Wu Ashun||Tomson Shanghai Pudong Golf Club||-9||1 Stoke|
|2014||Alexander Levy||Genzon Golf Club||-19||2 Strokes|
Analysis: Balance of Power and Shot Making Needed in Shenzhen
As well as its previous hosting duties for the China Open, Genzon Golf Club hosted the Shenzhen International for three years so many of those in the field this week will already know what it takes to score well at this track. For power hitters the key is making the most of the par fives, for more accurate types it’s all about setting up birdie chances with top class approach play. The other thing to note is the importance of putting across the board.
Fisher’s Consistency to Pay Off
Ross Fisher is in danger of slipping out of the world’s top 100 golfers. His recent results haven’t actually been too bad with just one missed cut and a fourth place at the Nedbank Golf Challenge in his last 12 events but it’s clear that he is not quite playing the sort of golf that he expects.
To rectify his slide down the rankings, Fisher has been working hard on his game. His social media posts from his practice sessions show that he is intent on continuing to work on increasing his distance whilst maintaining the beautiful iron play for which he has been associated for so long.
Fisher had the longest driving average on the European Tour last season and heads to Shenzhen second to only two players in terms of strokes gained approaching the green. That combination of distance and approach play is perfect for most courses but particularly Genzon so it’s little surprise Fisher has played well here before. A return to something approaching his best could well see the classy Fisher claim a very welcome win at a generous price of 28/1 with Betfred.
Hend Returns to Genzon in Great Shape
It’s fair to say that Scott Hend did not enjoy his last trip to Genzon. The Australian’s game just wasn’t there for the 2017 Shenzhen International and his missed cut was particularly disappointing as he placed fourth and 15th in his two previous starts at the course.
Hend flew to Shenzhen feeling much better about his game this week than on his last trip two years ago thanks to his recent win at the Maybank Championship. That was the latest big performance from Hend in which he utilised his incredible distance off the tee and if he can harness that power with the sort of iron play he’s capable of a place is well within Hend’s capabilities at 50/1 with Coral.
Final Verdict: Ross Fisher to Win
At his best, Ross Fisher has the class to outcompete everybody else in the field for this week’s Volvo China Open. The question, as ever, is whether he will be able to play to his best following a long, tiring trip to Shenzhen. His recent form and hard work suggests that may just be the case which makes the 28/1 that Betfred are quoting about his chances look very tempting.
About the Volvo China Open
The Volvo China Open takes place annually on the European Tour. The first edition was back in 1995, which was won by Paraguayan Raul Fretes at Beijing International Golf Club. Since 2004, the China Open has been co-sanctioned by the European Tour and Volvo has been the event’s only corporate sponsor.
Whilst the sponsor has remained constant, the venue has moved many times. The 2019 Volvo China Open took place at Genzon Golf Club, a stunning layout amidst lakes and forests in the Longgang district. Prior to that, the tournament was held at Topwin Golf and Country Club for three successive years. The likes of Binhai Lake Golf Club, Beijing CBD International Golf Club and Shanghai Silport Golf Club have all hosted the event. On the 14th February 2020, that year’s edition of the tournament, scheduled for the 23-26 April, once again at Genzon, was postponed due to the outbreak of Covid-19 and no new date has yet been put forward.
Fryatt the First British Winner
England’s Ed Fryatt made history by becoming the first British winner of the China Open in 1998, four years after turning professional. The Rochdale-born man picked up a superb victory in Shanghai, bagging £265,000 in prize money in the process.
Fryatt – who was born in England but moved to the US as a young child – beat Takeshi Ohyama by 2 strokes at Shanghai Sunlsland International Golf Club. Somewhat surprisingly, only three Englishmen have won the China Open, with two of those coming in the days before it was a European Tour event.
Paul Casey is the only man from England to win the China Open while the competition has been a European Tour event. After Welsh wizard Stephen Dodd won in 2004, it was Casey’s time to shine a year later, beating fellow countryman Oliver Wilson in a playoff. In 2008, Irishman Damien McGrane became the first and only Irish winner of the China Open.
|Year||British & Irish Winners|
|1998||Ed Fryatt (England)|
|2000||Simon Dyson (England)|
|2004||Stephen Dodd (Wales)|
|2005||Paul Casey (England)|
|2008||Damien McGrane (Ireland)|
The Belgian Bomber’s Record Win
Nicolas Colsaerts’ score of 264 remains a China Open record. The brilliant Belgian cruised to victory at the 2011 Volvo China Open, seeing off Soren Kjeldsen, Peter Lawrie, Danny Lee and Pablo Martin all by 4 strokes at Luxehills International CC.
After securing his first European Tour victory, the Belgian said, “I have been waiting a long time for this and I am pleased that I won in such a good way. A lot of people expected me to win a lot of events, but it has not been easy.” Since then, Colsaerts has won the 2012 Volvo World Match Play Championship as well as the 2019 Amundi Open de France.
Haotong’s Success in 2016
Since the first China Open back in 1995, there have only been four Chinese winners. The first of those was in 1997, when Cheng Jun won by 5 strokes at Beijing International Golf Club. Six years later, Zhang Lian-wei prevailed in the 2003 China Open.
In the European Tour era, we have seen just two home winners. In 2015, Wu Ashun reigned supreme, with Li Haotong keeping the trophy in China by coming out on top a year later. Haotong, the only Chinese player ranked in the world’s top 100 at the time of writing is the last home grown star to win the Volvo China Open.
He hit a superb last round of 64 (eight under par) to equal the best round of the week at the 2016 China Open. Six years prior to his memorable victory in 2016, Haotong won the Volvo China junior event.
|1997||Cheng Jun (Beijing International GC)|
|2003||Zhang Lian-wei (Shanghai Silport GC)|
|2015||Wu Ashun (Tomson Shanghai Pudong GC)|
|2016||Li Haotong (Topwin Golf and Country Club)|
Korhonen Keeps His Cool
At 38-years-old, Finland’s Mikko Korhonen became the oldest winner of the China Open when he picked up the trophy with a stunning victory in 2019. It was Korhonen’s second European Tour title after winning the Shot Clock Masters in Austria in 2018.
The Finn kept his cool in the Guangzhou pouring rain to beat Frenchman Benjamin Hebert in a playoff. Hebert had a 3-shot lead overnight, but Korhonen played exceptionally well in the final round at Genzon Golf Club to claw back the French ace. Mikko then did the business on the opening hole of the playoff to become the first Finish winner in China Open history.
Growing Prize Money
Whilst it was more of a local event prize money was understandably low but in 2004 Wales’ Dodd took home a rather handy €127k. The prize money on offer grew quite quickly and in 2007, victor Markus Brier went home with almost €250,000. Since 2013 the overall prize pool has stood at 20 million renminbi (Chinese Yuan), meaning a very nice pay cheque for the winner in the region of €400,000.