Major Champions Darren Clarke and YE Yang will help toast the fifth anniversary of the Ballantine’s Championship when they headline an impressive ‘blend’ of star names at Blackstone Golf Club, in the Korean capital, Seoul, from April 26-29 2012.
Reigning Open Champion Clarke and 2009 US PGA Champion Yang will be joined by World Number Eight Adam Scott, who makes his debut at the event, and World Number Ten Dustin Johnson, the American Ryder Cup player who finished fourth at Blackstone last year.
Also adding to the vintage will be Spaniard Miguel Angel Jiménez, last year’s runner-up, and his Ryder Cup team-mate Ian Poulter, who have amassed an impressive 29 European Tour titles between them.
The world class field underlines the growing reputation of the Ballantine’s Championship, which returns to Blackstone Golf Club for a second successive year.
Christian Porta, CEO of Chivas Brothers, says: “The Ballantine’s Championship has truly established itself as one of Asia’s biggest golf tournaments by continuing to attract the world’s best players. We are delighted to support this prestigious event as part of our long-term investment in world class golf.”
Clarke, who lifted the Claret Jug at Royal St George’s last July, is relishing his debut in the tournament, with the Northern Irishman aiming to add the title to his previous success in Asia at the 2008 BMW Asian Open. He will also hope to celebrate the Ballantine’s Championship’s fifth anniversary edition by following in the footsteps of compatriot and fellow Major Champion Graeme McDowell, who won the inaugural tournament in 2008.
“The Ballantine’s Championship is a new opportunity for me and somewhere that I’m very excited to go to,” said Clarke. “It’ll be great to go there as the Open Champion. The Claret Jug has been travelling around the world quite a lot with me so it’ll be great to take it to another place that hasn’t seen it before.”
“I have heard a lot of good things about the course at Blackstone. It is tough but fair, with a lot of risk and reward so you’ve got to think a little bit and figure out your way around it, which I will look forward to.”
He added: “From what all the other guys have said in the past, Ballantine’s put on a fantastic event and I’m sure this year will be no different, so I’m certainly looking forward to going there and seeing how good the tournament is.”
While the Korean fans will be eager to see The Open Champion, their support will undoubtedly be behind home favourite Yang, who became the first Asian to win a Major Championship when he famously held off Tiger Woods at Hazeltine National three years ago.
The 40-year-old, who won the 2007 HSBC Champions in Shanghai and the 2010 Volvo China Open in Suzhou, will be keen to put on a show for his compatriots after missing the cut in each of the past two Ballantine’s Championships.
Jiménez and Johnson return to Korea hoping to improve on last year when they came up just short behind champion Lee Westwood, with Jiménez missing a 15ft birdie opportunity on the last hole to take the tournament into a play-off.
Johnson was a further two shots back and he will return hoping to become the first American winner of the Ballantine’s Championship, adding his name to a trophy previously won by Northern Ireland’s McDowell (2008), Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee (2009), Australian Marcus Fraser (2010) and Englishman Westwood (2011).
Meanwhile Poulter and Scott will both be seeking further silverware in Asia, having won the UBS Hong Kong Open and Barclays Singapore Open respectively in 2010.
Debutant Scott will be determined to build on an impressive 2011 campaign during which he won the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, while the highlight of Poulter’s year was his victory in the Volvo World Match Play Championship in Spain.