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American Ryder Cup stars Dustin Johnson and Zach Johnson, plus 2010 Open Champion Louis Oosthuizen, will headline the field for this year’s Ballantine’s Championship, which returns to Blackstone Golf Club in Korea for a third consecutive year. The trio will join home favourites Y.E. Yang and Kim Kyung-tae for the Championship’s sixth edition, which takes place from April 25-28, 2013.
The line-up of leading international players set for Korea continues to demonstrate that the Ballantine’s Championship has cemented its position as one of Asia’s most successful golf tournaments.
Christian Porta, CEO of Chivas Brothers, said: “We are delighted that the Ballantine’s Championship continues to attract such a wealth of both talent and interest from all over the world, again reinforcing the increasing importance of Korea as a world-class golf destination. We look forward to another exciting edition of this prestigious golf tournament.”
World Number Six Oosthuizen will make his debut in the Ballantine’s Championship, hoping to add the title to his increasingly impressive CV, having captured his sixth European Tour title in last month’s Volvo Golf Champions in his native South Africa.
The 30 year old, who lifted the Claret Jug at St Andrews three years ago, came close to adding a second Major Championship to his list of achievements, when he lost in a play-off to Bubba Watson in the Masters Tournament at the Augusta National last April. He went on to win the Maybank Malaysian Open the following week and will be hoping to claim a second victory on Asian soil when he heads to Blackstone Golf Club, in Incheon, near the Korean capital of Seoul.
“I’m really looking forward to visiting Korea and to playing in the Ballantine’s Championship for the first time,” said Oozthuizen. “I got my first win in Asia last year and it would be nice to challenge for another in April. I’ve heard good things about the tournament and I look forward to experiencing it myself.”
Zach Johnson is also making his debut in the Championship and it will be the first time he has played in a European Tour event outside of the Major Championships and World Golf Championships events.
The three-time US Ryder Cup player won the 2007 Masters Tournament and has nine victories in total on the US PGA Tour, including two titles last year. He was one of the American team’s leading performers in The 2012 Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club, taking three points from his four matches.
“It’s a great opportunity to be able to play in the Ballantine’s Championship and I’m really looking forward to it. To be able to play in a new country and test myself against some of Europe and Asia’s leading players is very exciting,” he said.
Meanwhile Dustin Johnson, one of the biggest hitters in world golf, returns to Blackstone Golf Club after finishing fourth on his debut in 2011. The 28 year old was forced to miss last year’s Ballantine’s Championship because of a back injury suffered the month before the tournament, but returned to action to win the FedEx St Jude Classic and claimed his seventh US PGA Tour Title in the season opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions.
“I was disappointed to have to miss last year’s Ballantine’s Championship because of my back injury,” he said. “I really enjoyed my first visit a couple of years ago and I’m looking forward to returning.”
After making his Ryder Cup debut in 2010, Johnson was a Captain’s pick for the US Team in 2012, contributing a maximum return of three points from his three matches, and was one of only three Americans to win in the singles, alongside his namesake Zach and Jason Dufner. He feels the 7,275 yard, par 72 course suits his powerful game, after carding four consecutive sub-par rounds to finish three shots behind winner Lee Westwood two years ago.
“I think I did okay last year, and I ended up finishing pretty well,” said Johnson. “I played well on the Sunday and over the week I had two good days and two mediocre ones. So I enjoyed it, and finishing fourth isn’t too bad.
“It’s a good course for me. It sets up well, so you know if you drive it straight there you’re going to play pretty well. Hopefully I can better my fourth place. I liked Korea, and found the people really friendly, so I’m looking forward to going back.”
Leading the home hopes will be Yang and Kim, with both players striving to become the first Korean to win the Ballantine’s Championship.
Yang became the first Asian player to win a Major when he held off Tiger Woods to win the 2009 US PGA Championship. He finished tied 15th last year and will be hoping to improve again this time round, as he searches for a third European Tour title.
“The Ballantine’s Championship is always an important event for the Korean players and it is one I always look forward to,” he said. “Ballantine’s always puts on a great Championship for us and really look after us, so hopefully I can do well in return.”
Kim is a former Korean Amateur Champion and won the 2007 Maekyung Open in his second start on the Asian Tour. He finished in a share of 54th position in last year’s Ballantine’s Championship, which was won by Austrian Bernd Wiesberger.
Wiesberger finished five strokes clear of Scotland’s Richie Ramsay to claim his maiden European Tour title. He joined the roll of honour which previously included inaugural winner Graeme McDowell (2008), Thongchai Jaidee (2009), Marcus Fraser (2010) and Lee Westwood (2011).
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