Lowdown:
An impressive field will tee it up in the European Tour event at the Pinx Golf Club on Jeju Island, South Korea this week. Ernie Els, Henrik Stenson and Lee Westwood are all on the start-sheet for the second Ballantine’s Championship.
Last year, Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell and Jeev Milkha Singh of India ran away with the tournament finishing tied on -24 (seven shots clear of third placed Paul McGinley.) McDowell went on to win the title at the third hole of a thrilling playoff.
The tournament is being played six weeks later on this year’s European Tour schedule so conditions should be a little warmer than in ‘08. But, owing to Pinx GC’s setting, if the wind gets up the course could pose a stern challenge for the players.
Ballantine’s is Asia’s most popular Scotch whisky and, under their sponsorship, the tournament is flourishing. They’ve assembled an excellent field who’ll compete for a prodigious purse – the winner of the tournament will pocket €350,000.
“Korea is at the forefront of the Asian golf boom and the fans here are extremely passionate and knowledgeable about the game, so I’m really looking forward to playing at Pinx Golf Club.” Said Ernie Els.
Other big names on the start-sheet include 1992 Masters Champion Fred Couples and the on-form Gonzalo Fernandez Castano of Spain.

Venue: Pinx GC, Jeju Island, South Korea
Date: 23-26 April
Course stats: par 72, 7,345 yards
Purse: €2,100,000  Winner: €350,000
Defending champion: Graeme McDowell (-24)

TV coverage:

Thursday 23 – Live on Sky Sports 1 from 6am
Friday 24 – Live on Sky Sports 1 from 6am
Saturday 25 – Live on Sky Sports 2 from 4.30am
Sunday 26 – Live on Sky Sports 2 from 4.30am

Player watch:
Henrik Stenson – The Swede has the highest World Ranking of any player in the field. He’ll be looking to climb up the Race to Dubai standings.
Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano – He’s finished second in his last two starts on the European Tour and is due a victory.
Paul McGinley – The Irishman seems to be coming back into form after a top-10 last week in China. He was third here last year so clearly enjoys the course.

Key hole: 18th. A testing par-4 measuring 490 yards. It was the site of a thrilling conclusion to last year’s tournament as McDowell and Singh had to play the hole four times before a winner emerged.

Skills required: Creativity. Ted Robinson, the course designer, intended that every club in the bag be used in a round here and Robin Nelson’s 2007 re-design has only accentuated the challenge. Also dealing with the potentially blustery conditions.