The European Tour heads to South Korea this week for the sixth edition of the Ballantine’s Championship. Austria’s Bernd Wiesberger is the defending champion at the Blackstone Golf Club in Seoul.
The well-reported political tensions in Korea have caused many to consider their participation in this event, and there have been some high-profile withdrawals following a report last week that the North had moved short-range missile launchers to its east coast. American stars Dustin Johnson and Zach Johnson both confirmed they would not be making the journey to Seoul to compete in the tournament.
Many of the European Tour‘s best have travelled to South Korea however, with Louis Oosthuizen the top-ranked player in the field. The World Number seven spoke to his countryman Ernie Els about competing in the tournament and received a positive response from “The Big Easy.” The fact that the tournament organisers put on a private jet to fly Oosthuizen over for the event helped him make the decision.
“Yes, that was really nice of them,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of this tournament on television and heard a lot of good things about it from Ernie. So it was an easy decision to make.”
This tournament has become one of the most prestigious on the European Tour circuit in recent years, and a first prize of almost €400,000 confirms that.
Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell was the inaugural winner in 2008. Thongchai Jaidee took the title the following year with Marcus Fraser, Lee Westwood and Bernd Wiesberger the subsequent champions.
Last year, Wiesberger took the victory with something to spare, finishing five clear of Scotland’s Richie Ramsay. The Austrian is looking forward to a return to Blackstone.
“I think I can take some good momentum into this week,” he said. “I’ve prepared well for the last couple of days in Jakarta with my coach, as I did last year, so I’m pretty happy.”
Venue: Blackstone GC, Icheon, South Korea
Date: Apr 25-28
Course stats: par 72, 7,281 yards
Purse: €2,205,000 Winner: €367,500
Defending Champion: Bernd Wiesberger (-18)
Thursday 25 – Sky Sports 1 from 6am
Friday 26 – Sky Sports 1 from 6am
Saturday 27 – Sky Sports 1 from 6am
Sunday 28 – Sky Sports 1 from 6am
Richie Ramsay – The Scot was second in this event last year so clearly enjoys the course. He was tied 15th in his last European Tour start in Morocco and will be looking to kick-start his European Tour season in this event.
David Howell – The Englishman is yet to miss a cut in 2013 and he was in contention for last week’s Spanish Open until a poor final round. He was tied 11th in this event last year and is overdue a return to the winner’s circle.
Felipe Aguilar – Tied second last week in Spain and tied seventh in this event last year, the Chilean has had three top three finishes so far in 2013.
Key Hole: 15th. It’s a sprawling par 5 of 617 yards with water down the right side and lurking in front of the green. From the very back pegs few will attempt to reach in two but if the tees are moved up, the longest hitters might have a crack.
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