Luxehills attracts record Omega China Tour field to Chengdu

BEIJING, June 11 (Xinhua) -- An Omega China Tour record field of 150 players will compete in this week's RMB1 million Luxehills Golf Championship in Chengdu, which tees off on Thursday.

Defending champion Tsai Chi-huang, one of two Chinese Taipei invites, expected strong competition from the international field, which features Sofitel winner Kurt Barnes and eight more PGA Tour pros.

"It's a big field this week with more foreigners. I think the tour will be more competition than last year, especially as the Australian players are very strong," said the former Asian Tour player.

Tsai, 40, won last year's inaugural event at the Luxehills International Country Club with an Omega China Tour record total of 18-under-par 270 and went on to also win in Tianjin to become the circuit's third back-to-back winner.

"I'm hoping to play well again this year, although I'm not sure I can shoot 18-under again. Liao Guiming pushed me all the way last time, which helped me score so low," said Tsai.

Liao, the reigning Omega Order of Merit winner, said the domestic circuit was expanding, highlighting the live television coverage of Luxehills on Saturday and Sunday, a first for the Omega China Tour.

"With so many players, more foreigners and now live television, the Omega China Tour is growing pretty quickly. It's getting much more exposure and being watched by more people," said Liao, who finished three strokes behind Tsai last September.

"I like the Luxehills course, so even with live television, I'm not going to put too much pressure on myself this week. I'll just play it stroke by stroke."

Kurt Barnes, the 2003 Australian Amateur champion, is also eyeing the Luxehills trophy following a strong start to the year, which included a joint-11th finish in April's Volvo China Open and low rounds in March's New Zealand PGA Championship, which he led for 36 holes.

"The live television is a great initiative for the Omega China Tour, but I'm used to this in Australia and when I played on the Asian Tour," said the 28-year-old, whose victories include the 2004 Queensland PGA Championship and 2005 Victorian Open.

"I'm pretty confident about this week, as my victory in Nanjing helped take a lot of pressure off me after not winning for four years," added Barnes, who will play the first two rounds with fellow big-hitters Yuan Hao and Su Dong.

C.B. Fong, General Manager of Luxehills International Country Club, again expected large galleries at the event, which last year attracted the biggest crowds on the Omega China Tour.

"We had so many spectators last year and this year we've been doing more promotion, including radio and television, so we expect even bigger crowds, especially at the weekend," Fong said.