Henrik Stenson to make Hong Kong Open debut

Hong Kong (AFP) –


Henrik Stenson, the 2016 Open winner, confirmed Wednesday that he will play in the Hong Kong Open for the first time, some rare good news on the sporting front for the crisis-hit city.

Hong Kong has been shaken by four months of massive pro-democracy protests which have seen increasingly violent clashes between demonstrators and the police and forced the cancellation of a number of sporting and entertainment events.

The Stenson announcement comes two weeks after the US PGA Tour cancelled its Chinese feeder circuit's season-ending Hong Kong event citing the unrest and resulting safety concerns.

"As with all tournaments that we organise, the safety and well-being of players, spectators and tournament personnel remains our absolute priority," a Hong Kong Open spokeswoman told AFP when asked about the unrest.

"We won't speculate about what may or may not happen at some point in the future... we are monitoring the situation in Hong Kong extremely closely and will continue to react accordingly."

The Hong Kong Squash Open was called off on Tuesday, the latest sporting casualty of the political unrest, which has seen the cancellation of a number of high-profile events -- from international football matches and pop concerts to stand-up comedy shows and award-winning musicals.

Last month the Women's Tennis Association cancelled the Hong Kong Open, which usually draws some of the sport's biggest stars.

Stenson said he was looking forward to playing in the tournament, scheduled for November 28 to December 1.

It will be the 37th-ranked Swede's debut appearance at the Hong Kong tournament, the first event of the European Tour's 2020 Race to Dubai.

"It's hard to believe that I have not played this tournament before because I've always heard great things about the golf course, the city and the fans," he said.

Organisers also confirmed that 2018 winner Aaron Rai of England will be back to defend his title.