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Golf stars line up for Ballantine’s Championship

Some of the world’s top golfers are to vie for Korea’s biggest golf tournament this April. The world’s No.1 Lee Westwood, three-time major champion Ernie Els, No.10 Ian Poulter and Asia’s first major winner Y.E Yang will be among those competing in the Ballantine’s Championship, organizers announced on Monday.

“We are delighted to announce that Westwood, Els, Poulter and Yang will all be competing in this year’s championship,” David Ciclitira, CEO of event promoter Parallel Media Group, said at a ceremony at Seoul’s Millennium Hilton hotel on Monday.

For the past three years the Ballantine’s Championship has been successfully hosted on Jeju Island. Now, the tournament venue is moving to a more central location to attract more star players and visitors. 
John Nicodemo, the vice chairman of Pernod Ricard Korea, reveals the winner’s trophy for the 2011 Ballantine’s Championship in Seoul on Monday. (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald)
John Nicodemo, the vice chairman of Pernod Ricard Korea, reveals the winner’s trophy for the 2011 Ballantine’s Championship in Seoul on Monday. (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald)

Blackstone Golf Club in Incheon, which was completed in 2009, will welcome the world’s top golfers when it hosts the European Tour from April 28-May 1. On Monday, the organizers also announced that Ballantine’s, a famous producer of Scotch whisky, has extended its sponsorship of the tournament for a further three years through 2013.

The top four players could not attend Monday’s ceremony due to their demanding schedules.

But top English golfer Westwood, who dethroned long-time No.1 Tiger Woods last year, said in a message the tournament organizers: “I’ve heard great things about the new venue and, like the vast majority of players, it will be my first time there so it promises to be quite a challenge.

“I enjoyed a fantastic 2010 and becoming the world No.1 ... I’m very keen to maintain the momentum in 2011, so I’m aiming to put on a great display for the Korean fans,” Westwood added.

Y.E. Yang is making his third appearance at the tournament. Yang, current world No. 43, has been thrust into the media spotlight at home and abroad since winning the US PGA Championship in 2009. Despite having a sluggish season last year, 39-year-old Yang said he was looking forward to returning to Korea.

“It’s always a thrill to play in front of my home fans so I’m full of anticipation for this year’s tournament,” Yang said via the organizers.

The Ballantine’s Championship, which was established in 2007, is co-organized by the European Tour, the Korean PGA and the Asian Tour. It was the first European Tour event staged in Korea. The prize in the first year was 2 million euros ($ 2.6 million), while this year it is 2.2 million euros ($2.9 million), emphasizing the event’s status as the biggest golf tournament in Korea.

By Oh Kyu-wook (596story@heraldcorp.com)
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