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Two of golf's most well-known players, Michael Campbell of New Zealand and reigning British Open champion Ernie Els of South Africa are the latest international stars to confirm their attendance at the Iskandar Johor Open which will be staged at Horizon Hills Golf and Country Club, Johor Bahru from December 13-16.
This is the first outing for both players at the US$2 million event which is the Asian Tour's season-finale. They are currently in some fine form as they enter the final few weeks of their playing schedule for 2012.
The last few weeks have seen many global stars enjoy the 'Asian Swing' of their season and the Iskandar Johor Open will provide an additional chance for some marquee players to enjoy world-class golf in the region.
Els has also enjoyed a successful 2012. The 6ft 3' South African is one of the most successful golfers in the history of the game. This year he came from behind to win the 141st Open Championship in Royal Lytham & St Annes GC and finished ninth in the US Open Championship and tied second at the Volvo Golf Championship. He was also runner-up at the recent WGC-HSBC Champions in China.
Els, nicknamed the "Big Easy", has more than 60 victories worldwide including two US Opens, two Open Championships, and a record seven World Match Play titles. Els spent a record 758 weeks in the top-10of the Official World Golf Ranking. He won The European Tour Order of Merit in 2003 and again in 2004. Els was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.
"I am looking forward to playing in the Iskandar Johor Open. I'm doing a couple of golf courses around the corner from there and it'll be a good time to be down in Malaysia," said Els.
"Middle of December, I'm not going to be playing a lot of golf. I'll have a bit of a holiday after the event but the start of the year will be just around the corner. I like to kick start 2013 with the last event of the year, so to speak and it'll be very nice," added Els.
Commenting on the growth of golf in Asia, he added, "I played in Singapore in 1993 for the first time and since then, you've had a major champion coming out of Asia, the growth of the game has been unbelievable and the number of golf courses has been built is unbelievable. It's a very popular sport over here."
Kiwi Campbell has been back in contention for victories this season with a strong showing particularly in the second half of the year including a third place at the Portugal Masters, his highest finish since the beginning of 2008.
This year he has also tied for 11th at the Alstom Open de France and tied for 14th at the Omega European Masters.
He has played in Malaysia several times before and won the Dunhill Masters back in 1995. Next January marks the start of his 20th year as a professional, a career which has seen him achieve eight European Tour wins, three Challenge Tour wins and he rocketed to global golfing stardom following his US Open Championship win in 2005.
Campbell was the first New Zealander to win a Major for over 30 years and he won the HSBC World Match Play Championship the same year and was duly named European Golfer of the year to cement his status as a major player in the game.
"I have always enjoyed playing in Malaysia but it will be my first time playing the Iskandar Johor Open and I am looking forward to being a contender. My game is in a good place at the moment and I am looking to continue the momentum I've gained from solid performances over the past few months. It would be great to end the year with a victory at Horizon Hills Golf Club so I'll be going all out to achieve it," said Campbell.
Event organisers IMG are delighted to welcome these international winners to Johor Bahru for the first time. Grant Slack, Vice President of Golf Division said, "The Iskandar Johor Open is widely known as one of the fastest growing events on the Asian Tour and we are continuing to attract some of the best international players to compete against the best in the region.
"Michael and Ernie are two renowned golfers that have played around the world so to have them at Horizon Hills in December for the first time is a real coup for the event. Sergio Garcia's attendance has already created quite a stir in the region and I expect this announcement today to do the same which is great for golf in the region and the growing prestige of the event."
Joining Sergio Garcia and Thongchai Jaidee in the confirmed star line up to date, the Iskandar Johor Open is gearing up to host yet another stellar field with more announcements still to be made in the coming weeks.
The Johor State Government and Johor Golf Association are continuing with their support of this event and have created the biggest international event in Johor. Since the inaugural event in 2007, the prize money for the tournament has increased five-fold from US$300,000 in 2007 to US$1.25million in 2010. In 2011, the prize money grew to US$2 million, and will remain the same for the 2012 edition.
Past champions of the event are Padraig Harrington (2010), K.J. Choi (2009), Retief Goosen (2008), and Artemio Murakami (2007) while Dutchman Joost Luiten collected the silverware and his share of the US$2 million prize purse last year.
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