(Reuters) – U.S. Masters champion Danny Willett will pose a serious threat to compatriot Justin Rose’s title defense at this year’s Hong Kong Open after the Ryder Cup team mates confirmed their participation in the Dec. 8-11 tournament.
Englishman Rose pipped Denmark’s Lucas Bjerregaard by one shot last year and is keen for a repeat triumph at the event co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour, European Tour and Hong Kong Golf Association.
“Winning at Fanling last year was great so I am really looking forward to defending my title,” the 36-year-old was quoted as saying in an Asian Tour statement on Wednesday.
Rose is on a high after becoming the first man in 112 years to win an Olympic gold in golf at the Rio Games.
“Winning the Olympics was very special. I have to say it was one of the greatest weeks of my career,” the world number 10 added.
“I think all of the golfers who were a part of the Olympics felt how special it was to be a part of the biggest sporting event in the world and it was great to see such great crowds in Rio.”
It has been an equally memorable year for Willett, who overhauled Jordan Spieth on the back nine to win his first major at Augusta National, represented Britain in Rio along with Rose and will play in his first Ryder Cup at the end of September.
“I have some good memories of the course and the tournament in Hong Kong so I am looking forward to getting back there and trying to get my hands on the trophy,” said Willett, who finished 21st when he last played the event in 2011.
“Rosey and I were team mates in Rio and will be team mates in the Ryder Cup so we are spending a fair bit of time together these days,” Willett added.
“After he won in Hong Kong last year I am pretty sure he will be one of the main men to beat in December.”
(Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; Editing by John O’Brien)