Apr 26, 2017: Defending champion Li Haotong and fellow Chinese stars Wu Ashun and Zhang Lianwei joined England’s Chris Wood and Danish duo Thorbjørn Olesen and Thomas Bjørn at the Great Wall of China for a traditional Chinese tea ceremony ahead of the 23rd edition of the Volvo China Open.
Flanked by armed ceremonial guards, the six star players were given a special introduction to the art of tea-making on a watchtower of the nation’s most recognizable landmark before the tournament begins at Beijing’s Topwin Golf and Country Club from April 27-30.
Li will be aiming to become the first two-time winner in the history of the tournament when he returns to the scene of his greatest triumph where a year ago he won his maiden European Tour title by three shots from Chile’s Felipe Aguilar.
“I am glad to be back and ready to play again,” he said. “I think you need to hit a lot of drivers, like on the seventh hole, no one goes for the green but I go for the greens every day. I made four birdies there last year and I think it is the most important point.
“I know it’s always tough to play as a defending champion so I will just try to enjoy myself and play my best.”
The 21 year old will have a number of challengers including former champion Wu, who has fond memories of China’s national Open Championship when he won in 2015, and Chinese golf legend Zhang Lianwei.
“It would be nice to have another Chinese winner,” said the two-time European Tour winner. “I think the Chinese players are ready and we can win again. It doesn’t matter which one, just to keep the trophy in China.
“It’s a great golf course, I like it a lot. The conditions are perfect and the weather looks good this week, so I hope everybody enjoys this week. I feel better than last week and ready to play.”
“It’s my second time to the Great Wall and it’s really beautiful, I’m excited to come back this week and play in the Volvo China Open.”
Wood, a three-time European Tour winner, returns to China in search of a fourth victory after a short stint in the US and will tee it up alongside 15-time European Tour champion Bjørn – a runner up at the event in 2004 – as well as his Danish compatriot Olesen.
“It was impressive, said wood. “I took a few pictures of the Great Wall but it just doesn’t do it justice. To go up there with a couple of the other guys was good fun.
“I’ve been playing tournaments in China for many years but this is the first time I have had a chance to see the Great Wall. It’s mind-blowing and I’m delighted to have had this opportunity to see it for myself.
“It’s a good time of year for me to be playing, now I’ve played the desert swing and a few events in the States and its easy to sort of fall out of the rhythm of playing, so to come out here for the Volvo China Open and the GolfSixes next week should be good.
“I think the greens are the trickiest part – they are so severe – golf courses in China tend to be quite generous off the tee but there are some really severe slopes this week. I think the pin positions have to be quite close to each other for the four days but it’s in great shape.
“I’ve been playing alright but just not really scoring, hence why I need to keep playing. I have had a couple of weeks off since the Masters and practiced hard at home, so I am ready for this week. When you have been playing well but not scoring, you really feel like you start to show a bit of form. You are certainly eager for Thursday to come and test it out – to see if you can post some scores because I’ve been playing the golf but not making the scores.