Three-time Major winner Ernie Els will spearhead a world class field at the forthcoming Ballantine's Championship in Korea. The South African ace will be joined in the line up for the â‚¬2.1 million showpiece by Sweden's Henrik Stenson and England's Lee Westwood, while Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell will return to defend his title.
The Ballantine's Championship returns to Pinx Golf Club on the picturesque island of Jeju, the venue for last year's inaugural tournament, from 23rd - 26th April 2009. Broadcast live across 65 channels to more than 300 million households worldwide, last year's Championship was the first official European Tour event to take place in Korea and brought to life the style and substance that underpins the Ballantine's brand.
"We are very proud to be launching the 2009 Ballantine's Championship knowing we will play host to such a high calibre field of international golfers," said Christian Porta, Chairman and CEO of Chivas Brothers, which owns Ballantine's.
"With the star players announced this week, we are expecting a world class showcase in April and are confident that this prestigious event will continue to build on the outstanding success of the inaugural tournament last year."
Commenting on his involvement Ernie Els said: "I've enjoyed my previous visits to Korea and I'm delighted to be returning to take part in the Ballantine's Championship for the first time. Korea is at the forefront of the Asian golf boom and the fans there are extremely passionate about the game, so I'm really looking forward to playing at Pinx Golf Club."
Winner of the US Open in 1994 and 1997 and the British Open in 2002, Els is currently 10th in the world rankings with more than 50 victories worldwide to his name, including an astonishing seven World Match Play Championship titles. He finished top of the European Tour Order of Merit on two occasions and has triumphed 16 times on the PGA Tour.
Westwood, the world No.11, has an impressive 18 European Tour victories to his name while world No.12 Stenson ended the 2008 season in style when he partnered Robert Karlsson to victory for Sweden at the World Cup in China. McDowell triumphed in dramatic fashion at Pinx last year, edging India's Jeev Milkha Singh on the third extra hole. His victory sparked an impressive season that yielded a second success at the Barclays Scottish Open and his Ryder Cup debut.
"Winning the 2008 Ballantine's Championship was an unforgettable moment in my career and also the start of a brilliant year for me," said McDowell. I know Ballantine's and the organisers are putting together a world class field and the Korean fans can be assured I'll be doing my very best to mount a successful title defence."
The 2009 Ballantine's Championship will have a full field of 156 players headed by the top 60 available players from the official world rankings. In addition, the top 25 players from the Korea PGA, as determined by the Ballantine's Points System, will be awarded places, giving home grown golfers the opportunity to compete en masse alongside the game's elite.
The remainder of the field will be split between the European and Asian Tours, plus eight sponsor invitations.
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