History will be made this week when the Asian Tour stages its first full field event outside the Asian continent.
Slaley Hall in England’s north is the venue for the second tournament of the International Series, the first having been played in Thailand in March.
The 10 event series was announced late last year and signals the first move in a major shift among the game’s professional circuits.
Backed by Greg Norman’s LIV Golf – the same company behind what is known as the Saudi Golf League – the International Series is a bold initiative by the Asian Tour to grow beyond their traditional home base.
The other nine events in the series will be staged in Asian countries.
DEFENDING CHAMPION: Inaugural event.
COURSE: Slaley Hall is no stranger to tournament golf having hosted a European Tour event from 1996 to 2002.
A mid 1980’s creation that opened in 1990, the course was built with tournament golf in mind and offers a demanding test both off the tee and into the smallish greens.
Players will have to negotiate a mix of landscapes as the course winds its way from a heavily forested area to more open moorland and back again.
Pine trees line many of the fairways and reward accurate driving while elevation changes put a premium on club selection for approach shots.
The course was designed by former European Tour and Ryder Cup player Dave Thomas, one of more than 100 in his portfolio across the UK and Europe.
Previous winners at the course include Lee Westwood, Colin Montgomerie and two-time U.S. Open winner Retief Goosen.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: An interesting field has assembled for the event with most of the leading Asian players and several with joint membership in both Asia and Europe.
While some will be experiencing golf outside Asia for the first time, there is no shortage of seasoned veterans in the field including, intriguingly, former U.S. Open winners Graeme McDowell and Michael Campbell.
Several Australians who hold joint membership will also tee it up, among them Wade Ormsby and Scott Hend who will both be a good chance at contending.
American Siwhan Kim, winner of the first International Series tournament in March and currently leading the Order of Merit, will be among the favourites particularly on a golf course so many of his nearest challengers will find completely foreign.
AUSTRALIANS IN THE FIELD: Scott Hend, Louis Dobbelaar, Dimi Papadatos, Hayden Hopewell (a), Tim Stewart, David Gleeson, Andrew Martin, Jack Thompson, Blake Windred, Travis Smyth, Andrew Dodt, Todd Sinnott, Jake Higginbottom, Josh Younger, Daniel Fox, Will Heffernan, Scott Strange, Ben Eccles, Sam Brazel and Kevin Yuan.