Shandong, China; June 1: Battling Aussie Andre Stolz can leapfrog Kim Kyung-tae back into top spot on the OneAsia Order of Merit with a victory at the inaugural US$1 million Nanshan China Masters, which starts tomorrow.
Stolz, winner of the season-opening Indonesia PGA Championship, trails GS Caltex Maekyung Open champion Kim by US$58,582 after four events.Kim, ranked 36 in the world, is not playing in China and so a win would see Stolz vault into the lead while second or third place may be good enough depending on the performance of on-form countryman Kurt Barnes.
The big-hitting Barnes, who went some way to fulfilling his huge potential with victory in the fog-shortened SK Telecom Open, will overtake both Kim and Stolz by picking up the US$180,000 first prize at the Nanshan International Golf Club’s Danling Cuiyuan Course.
Kim leads the Merit list with earnings of US$273,707, while Stolz is in second place on US$215,125. Barnes has won US$184,758 and is in third position.
Adding spice to the gripping scenario, last year’s Merit list champion Liang Wenchong of China will be looking for his third OneAsia title on the mainland and his fourth overall on the burgeoning circuit.
Korean stars Kim Dae-hyun, Kim Bi-o and Han Chang-won are also competing as well as Thailand’s Thaworn Wiratchant, Indonesian Rory Hie and Michael Hendry from New Zealand.
Veteran Stolz is playing some of the best golf of his life just three years after making a comeback to the game after a period on the sidelines with wrist injuries. Winning the OneAsia Merit title did not enter his thoughts at the beginning of the season but it has become a goal since his win in Jakarta.
“I didn’t start out the year thinking about winning the money list. But now I may end up playing the rest of the year on OneAsia. I’ll see how things pan out,” said Stolz. “Winning any money list in the world would be a great achievement. I just try and prepare for each tournament the best I can, to give myself the best chance of winning.”
Barnes also discovered consistency in his highly rated game en route to the SK Telecom Open title in Korea and will be hoping to maintain that form at the Nanshan China Masters. A course-record 64 in the second round at Pinx Golf Club set up victory in the tournament, which was reduced to 54 holes because of fog.
“Winning means a massive amount to me. I now hope that this is a new beginning,” said Barnes, who celebrated his 30th birthday last Wednesday.“I am looking forward to this week and playing some good golf and hopefully win back-to-back titles, although I am not counting my chickens.”
The Nanshan China Masters joins the Volvo China Open and the Midea China Classic as a mainland leg of the 2011 OneAsia schedule, which boasts 13 tournaments this season.