Hong Kong: Title holder Ian Poulter is prepared for a tough defence at the $2.75 million UBS Hong Kong Open golf which starts on Thursday.
The flamboyant Englishman won last year's tournament with a spectacular 22-under-par 258 winning total, highlighted by a stunning 10-under-par 60 in the second round at the Hong Kong Golf Club.
But with the greens a touch firmer this week, Poulter is expecting birdies to be less accessible as he takes on a top-class field which includes world number two Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, current Asian Tour number one Juvic Pagunsan, Thongchai Jaidee and Jeev Milkha Singh.
"The golf course is in better condition this year than it actually was last year. It is in the best condition I have seen it to be honest," enthused Poulter, who is an 11-time European Tour winner.
"I m going to say the greens are firmer and they are much faster, so to be honest, that actually takes it the other way. We all like quick greens and stuff, but the fact that they are quite firm, you won't see the scoring quite as good. You can get a few putts that are going to run a little bit past the pin and you are going to have a really, really quick putt coming back."
The world number 25 arrived in Hong Kong in top form after partnering Rose to tied second place at the Omega Mission Hills World Cup in China last week. A return to the bustling Hong Kong city has kept his adrenaline flowing as he searches for a second title of the year after winning the Volvo World Match Play earlier in the season.
The UBS Hong Kong Open, one of the most prestigious championships in Asia, is jointly sanctioned by the Asian Tour and European Tour. It is the penultimate event of the season for both Tours.
Other top names vying for the title include two-time Hong Kong Open winner Miguel Angel Jimenez of Spain, 2010 champion Gregory Bourdy of France, Ryder Cup star Edoardo Molinari of Italy, countryman Matteo Manassero, who was last year's runner-up, and three-time Major winner Padraig Harrington of Ireland.