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Open champion Lowry to headline protest-delayed Hong Kong Open

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Hong Kong (AFP)

The 2019 Open Championship winner Shane Lowry will headline a revamped field for golf's Hong Kong Open when it finally gets under way next month after being shelved in November because of anti-government protests.

Originally scheduled as the European Tour's season-opener from November 28-December 1, the Asian showpiece was postponed as the city struggled with months of sometimes violent pro-democracy protests which forced road closures and public transport shutdowns near the venue.

Irishman Lowry, who stormed to a famous six-shot victory to win his first major at Royal Portrush in July, will be joined at the 61st edition of Asia's oldest professional tournament by American world number 16 Tony Finau, who was a member of Tiger Woods's victorious Presidents Cup team in Melbourne on Sunday.

Newly-crowned 2019 Asian Tour Order of Merit winner Jazz Janewattananond, fresh from winning the Indonesian Masters last week, and popular fellow Thai Kiradech Aphibarnrat will also feature in the event which will now be played from January 9-12.

"I'm really excited about going back to play the Hong Kong Open again," said Lowry, whose last appearance was in 2010.

"The Hong Kong Open will be my first event of 2020 and I'm hoping to use the tournament to kickstart what will be a very important year for me as I try to make the European Ryder Cup team next September and build on the success I enjoyed this year."

Finau was runner-up at the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai last year and will also begin his new year back in the region at the Asian Tour sanctioned event.

"I'm looking forward to competing in my first Hong Kong Open," said Finau, who also made the 2018 US Ryder Cup team.

"I've heard great things about the tournament and Hong Kong Golf Club, and I am excited to see it all first-hand to start the year."

The Hong Kong Open has been won by luminaries from Peter Thomson to Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy, and had been an annual fixture at the colonial-era Fanling course since 1959.

Italian Francesco Molinari, who won The Open Championship in 2018, Sweden's Henrik Stenson and controversial American Patrick Reed had been due to play last month but will have to skip the new dates because of prior commitments.

The tournament is organised by the European Tour but they are unable to sanction the $1 million event on its new slot in the calendar because of a clash with the South African Open.

European Tour boss Keith Pelley said they would resume sanctioning the Hong Kong Open for the 62nd edition in November 2020.

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