Macau: The Venetian Macau Open will boast one of its strongest fields with four Indian golfers, led by Anirban Lahiri, in the mix for the prestigious event alongside marquee names Ernie Els and Miguel Angel Jimenez next week.
The tournament includes seven Asian Tour Order of Merit champions, led by reigning No.1 Kiradech Aphibarnrat, and 18 of the top-20 ranked players.
Australian big-hitter Scott Hend will defend his crown at the $900,000 full-field Asian Tour tournament at the Macau Golf and Country Club from Oct 23 to 26 which will include past champions American Jason Knutzon, Chinese Taipei's Chan Yih-shin and Australian David Gleeson.
Current Merit leader David Lipsky of the US will tee up in his second Venetian Macau Open where he hopes to cement his position ahead of second-ranked Lahiri of India and Filipino veteran Antonio Lascuna, who has been one of the season's revelations.
Other former number Asian number ones in the fray include the evergreen Thaworn Wiratchant of Thailand, the Indian trailblazing trio Arjun Atwal, Jeev Milkha Singh and Jyoti Randhawa, and China's Liang Wen-chong, who will be hoping to emulate countryman Zhang Lian-wei's double victory in Macau.
Thai great Thongchai Jaidee, the only man to win three Order of Merit crowns, will be one of the favourites to win the Venetian Macau Open following another superb season highlighted by a victory at the Nordea Masters in Sweden.
Lahiri, victorious in Indonesia in April, will be aiming to repeat the fireworks from last year's final round where he fired a course record equaling 62 to finish second behind Hend.
"That final round in Macau was fantastic. I remember playing on the last day with Arjun Atwal for the first time and it was really fun. I enjoyed myself and I played a good round. I'm looking forward to playing well again," said the 27-year-old.
With an all-time high prize purse on offer, thanks to the support of The Venetian Macao, Lahiri lauded the event's growth where past winners include luminaries such as Lee Westwood and Colin Montgomerie.
"It's very positive for the Asian Tour when you have a tournament that keeps growing in stature. It now attracts good players. Ernie is one of the main attractions because of his association with Venetian and the Asian Tour. As an event, it becomes one of those events that everybody wants to play in," said Lahiri.