Miguel Angel Jimenez favourite to claim fourth Hong Kong Open title in nine years
Last Updated: 03/12/13 1:16pm
Miguel Angel Jimenez: Celebrates after his third triumph in Hong Kong last year
Miguel Angel Jimenez starts a warm favourite this week to claim a fourth Hong Kong Open title in nine years.
The veteran Spaniard returns to Fanling as defending champion having edged out Sweden's Fredrik Andersson Hed by one shot last year to become the oldest-ever winner in European Tour history.
His defence appears to be aided by the fact many big names - including the likes of 2011 champion Rory McIlroy - will not be in the field given their commitments elsewhere, with the Nedbank Golf Challenge and the Tiger Woods' World Challenge event also taking place this week.
It means that, at 48th in the world, the ageless Andalusian enters the event as the highest-ranked player in the field.
However, Jimenez insists that a lack of star names does not necessarily mean it will prove any easier for him to notch another title.
"It's a pity we don't have more weeks in the year," stated the 49-year-old, before adding that the global schedule nowadays is "very, very tight".
"It is very important for the tournament to have all the big names, but it's very tough when you have different tournaments in the same week.
"But does it make it easier... to win if the big players don't come? No. You need to always give 100 percent. It doesn't matter who's in the field."
Played over an old-fashioned, short par-70 track at Hong Kong GC renowned for its tight, tree-lined fairways, it is perhaps little surprise that Jimenez has enjoyed so much success there.
A man with a stellar track record at similar tests such as Valderrama and Wentworth, the 49-year-old has been in good form since returning from a skiing-induced injury in late April.
The likes of consistent Australian Marcus Fraser and Danish talent Thorbjorn Olesen are expected to prove the main threats to Jimenez this week, while past champions Padraig Harrington and Jose Maria Olazabal are also present.
Jimenez, though, looked towards the other end of the age spectrum when identifying possible contenders, picking out teenage Chinese prodigy Guan Tianlang as one to keep an eye on.
The 15-year-old became the youngest player in history to make the cut at The Masters earlier in the year and told reporters he was "very much looking forward" to the challenge this week.