Shanghai, China: Ahead of this week’s US$10 million WGC-HSBC Champions, five of the star-studded field were brought together for a unique Europe versus USA re-match aimed at helping grow golf in China.
The event saw new world number one Brooks Koepka, world number two Dustin Johnson, defending champion and world number three Justin Rose, world number five Rory McIlroy and world number six Francesco Molinari try their hand at one of China’s biggest sports.
They swapped their drivers for badminton racquets on a specially constructed court outside the Chamber of Commerce Shanghai, in an event designed to appeal to Chinese fans and bring to life the ever-closer connection between Chinese culture and world-class golf.
Just weeks after facing off in the Ryder Cup at Le Golf National, it was also another chance to compete for bragging rights in the battle of Europe versus USA.
The event is part of title partner HSBC’s efforts to support the growth of golf in Asia through its flagship partnership with the World Golf Championships.
When HSBC brought the HSBC Champions to Shanghai in 2005, there were a limited number of golf fans, little playing heritage and few significant events. Since then the partnership between HSBC and the WGC has helped to raise golf’s profile in the world’s most populous country.
Hosting the latest re-match between Europe and the USA on a badminton court is the latest effort to broaden golf’s appeal.
The event featured a coaching session conducted by former badminton world champion Wang Lin, who put the golf pros through their paces. HSBC is also partner of the Badminton World Federation.
Peter Wong, Deputy Chairman and Chief Executive of The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited, said: “We are proud of our partnership with the World Golf Championship, and how the WGC-HSBC Champions has grown. Golf in Asia is thriving, with talented players breaking onto out on the world stage and more fans following the sport.
“Bringing the best players in the world to Shanghai has been a huge part of this development. As we continue to push the growth agenda for Chinese golf, what better way to help Chinese fans connect with some of the best players in the world than to have them try their hands at badminton, a hugely popular sport in China.”
Koepka, this year’s US Open and PGA Championship winner and triumphant at last week’s CJ Cup in Korea, said: “It was great fun to swap the golf club for the badminton racquet and have a hit at an incredible location in front of the Chamber of Commerce Shanghai. It started off as a bit of fun, but when we got going there was definitely some friendly competition between the two sides.”
Johnson said: “I have played at the WGC-HSBC Champions for several years now, and every year the tournament seems to get better. The local fans are more engaged, more knowledgeable and clearly more into the game of golf. With the help of the Chamber of Commerce Shanghai, great events such as this will allow us continue to keep growing the sport in this part of the world.”
Rose said: “It was an incredible experience to lift the Old Tom Morris Cup in Shanghai last year and I can’t wait to tee off again to defend the trophy. The amazing field that descends on Shanghai each October certainly justifies the tournament’s unofficial title as Asia’s Major and I’m looking forward to what will be a really challenging few days.”
McIlroy added: “It is really important for the future of golf that the sport continues to reach out to new markets and new fans all over the world. Events like this one, and the work being done generally by HSBC in Asian golf, do a tremendous job at helping secure the long-term prosperity of golf, so I was happy to be a part of today’s event.”
Open Championship winner Molinari said: “It was great to once again line-up alongside some of my European team-mates, this time on a badminton court rather than a golf course. What took place at Le Golf National was undoubtedly one of the highlights of my professional life.”