Volvo China Open preview

The European Tour remains in Asia this week for the Volvo China Open at Binhai Lake Golf Club in Tianjin. Branden Grace of South Africa is the defending champion.

Branden Grace defends Volvo China Open (Getty Images)

Lowdown: The European Tour remains in Asia this week for the Volvo China Open at Binhai Lake Golf Club in Tianjin. Branden Grace of South Africa is the defending champion.

This will be the 10th running of the Volvo China Open, first held at the Shanghai Silport Golf Club back in 2005. The tournament has grown in stature during that time and the prize fund has steadily increased from €750,000, when Stephen Dodd of Wales won the inaugural event, to some €2,500,000 this season. The winning prize of €407,906 is one of the largest on the regular European Tour schedule.

A strong field has assembled at Binhai Lake including a number of players from the top-100 on the Official World Golf Ranking. Paul Lawrie of Scotland is in the field and he's joined on the start list by Alex Noren, Thomas Bjorn, Rafa Cabrera Bello and Scott Jamieson, amongst others.

Defending champion Branden Grace returns to the site of his victory last year. He produced four superb rounds at Binhai Lake in 2012 to post a total of 21-under-par and see off 2011 champion Nicolas Colsaerts by three strokes.

The South African is looking forward to attempting to retain his title. "It'll be great to get back to Tianjin," he said. "This will be the second Volvo-sponsored tournament I have returned to as defending champion. I played well in the Volvo Golf Champions at the start of the season and really enjoyed the added pressure of trying to defend my title, even though it was a completely new experience for me."

Another attraction in the field this week is Ye Wo-cheng. At just 12 years and 242 days old, he'll be the youngest player ever to compete on the European Tour. He qualified to play in this event by coming through a qualifier last month.

The tournament is being contested at Binhai Lake for the second year running. It's a Pete Dye design that can be stretched to almost 7,700 yards. But it's a track that can yield birdies - Branden Grace's winning total of 21-under in 2012 is proof of that.

Venue: Binhai Lake GC, Tianjin, China Date: May 2-5 Course stats: par 72, 7,667 yards Purse: €2,500,000 Winner: €407,906 Defending Champion: Branden Grace (-21)

TV Coverage: Thursday 2 - Sky Sports 1 from 6.30am Friday 3 - Sky Sports 1 from 6.30am Saturday 4 - Sky Sports 1 from 6am Sunday 5 - Sky Sports 2 from 6am

Player Watch: Peter Whiteford - The Scot lost out in a playoff for last week's Ballantine's Championship and was tied 18th in this event last year.

Max Kieffer - He's made a solid start to his 2013 European Tour campaign with only two cuts missed. He was tied for second in his last outing - the Spanish Open.

David Howell - He's yet to miss a cut in 11 events on this year's Tour. He's knocking on the door and just needs a few good breaks this week to step back into the winner's circle.

Key Hole: 18th. It's a monster par-5 that can play as long as 630 yards. But last year it played as the second easiest hole on the course, averaging 4.69. There were no less than 174 birdies here and those who don't close with a four will feel they've lost a stroke to the field. Where next? PGA Tour - Wells Fargo Championship preview

Fergus Bisset
Contributing Editor

Fergus is Golf Monthly's resident expert on the history of the game and has written extensively on that subject. He is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and his passion for the sport was bolstered during his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and the history section of "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin , also of Golf Monthly. 

Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?