After the thrilling climax of the 2017 European Tour season last week in Dubai, the 2018 schedule begins right away on Thursday. Sam Brazel defends the UBS Hong Kong Open in Fanling and 2017 European Tour Number 1 and Number 2, Tommy Fleetwood and Justin Rose will start.

A strong field has assembled for the first event of the 2018 European Tour season. 2017 Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood will tee it up in the Hong Kong Open, as will the man who pushed him all the way to the line for that title, Justin Rose. The 2013 US Open champion won this event back in 2015.

Sergio Garcia is on the start list in the Hong Kong Open, together with his fellow Spaniard Rafa Cabrera Bello. Matthew Fitzpatrick, Paul Dunne, Kiradech Aphibarnrat and defending champ Sam Brazel also play.

This will be the 59th edition of the Hong Kong Open and it’s been part of the European Tour schedule since 2002.

Since the tournament was first contested in 1959 there have been a number of notable winners, including Peter Thomson, Greg Norman, Tom Watson and, more recently, Colin Montgomerie, Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose and Miguel Angel Jimenez. The Spaniard has won the event on four occasions  and will play again this year.

Last year Sam Brazel was something of a surprise winner in Fanling. The 37-year-old Australian was playing in just his 17th European Tour event and he birdied the 72nd hole to finish one clear of Spain’s Rafa Cabrera-Bello.

The Hong Kong Golf Club was founded in 1889. The club has been host to this tournament since 1959 – one of the few professional events to have remained at the same venue for such a long period of time.

The weather forecast looks mostly clear with perhaps a little rain on Saturday.

Venue: Hong Kong GC, Fanling, Hong Kong
Date: Nov 23-26
Course stats: par 70, 6,703 yards
Purse: $2,000,000
Defending champion: Sam Brazel (-13)

TV Coverage:
Thursday 23 – Sky Sports Golf from 6am
Friday 24 – Sky Sports Golf from 6am
Saturday 25 – Sky Sports Golf from 4.30am
Sunday 26 – Sky Sports Golf from 4am

Player Watch:

Justin Rose – He’s been on great form, winning in Turkey and coming close in Dubai. He won this event in 2015 and will surely be a contender come Sunday.

Justin Rose swing sequence:

Kiradech Aphibarnrat – The talented Thai golfer has also been playing very well in recent weeks. He was tied sixth in Turkey and tied second last week in Dubai. He doesn’t have a great record in this tournament but he was seventh back in 2011 which shows he can negotiate his way around this tricky course.

Tommy Fleetwood – Tied for third in this event last year, the Englishman comes into this tournament on the crest of a wave having secured the Race to Dubai crown. He’s playing well just now to boot, he hasn’t missed a cut on the European Tour since September.

Key hole: 18th. At 410 yards, it might not look overly imposing on the card but, with water, trees, heavy bunkering plus a famously elusive green, par here is an excellent score.

Skills required: Course management. This is a layout that demands accuracy and a strategic approach. It’s an old-school track where the ability to hit the long-ball is not a prerequisite. It’s a course that requires good shot-making and a tidy short game.