By Michael Church
HONG KONG (Reuters) – Former British Open champion Henrik Stenson says he has no concerns about security ahead of this month’s Hong Kong Open as the tournament looks set to go ahead despite ongoing civil unrest in the Chinese-ruled city.
Numerous sporting events have been canceled in the territory as a result of anti-government demonstrations over the last several months but the Swede says the European Tour event at Fanling should be safe for players and spectators.
“I’ve never had any real concerns traveling anywhere in the world to play golf,” said Stenson, who headlines a field that also includes former Masters champion Patrick Reed.
“We have a Tour and they always put the safety of players and fans first. It’s something that I leave for the European Tour as part of the staging of this event and whenever there’s the go-ahead to play a golf tournament I’m there ready to play.
“It’s never been a concern of mine.”
The protests began in June over a now-shelved controversial extradition bill which kickstarted a series of demonstrations that have turned increasingly violent.
The Hong Kong Open tennis event, which is part of the WTA Tour and was due to be held in October, was called off while the Hong Kong Open squash championships were also canceled.
But the territory’s premier golf competition, now in its 61st year, will go ahead as planned. The Nov. 28 to Dec. 1 tournament fills the opening slot of the 2020 European Tour’s Race to Dubai.
Prior to appearing in Hong Kong Stenson, who finished 20th at the WGC HSBC Champions event in Shanghai last weekend, travels to South Africa for the Nedbank Golf Challenge before taking his place at the Tour’s end of season DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.
“When you have got 78 of the top players in the world, it’s never a bad week if you’re finishing 20th even if we always aim to finish higher,” he said.
“We want higher and we have the capacity for a lot better than that. I feel it was a decent start on a four or five week tour here and I’ve had a few days to practice before Sun City, which is my next tournament, and then the Dubai final and then we come to Hong Kong.
“We’ve got to work hard and do the right things and we’ll get the return eventually.
“You never know when that’s going to happen. It would be good if Hong Kong could be that week where we get rewarded for that hard work.”
(Reporting by Michael Church, Editing by Peter Rutherford)