Open champion Padraig Harrington is anticipating a strong challenge from the home contingent at the inaugural Ballantine’s Championship, which starts this Thursday at Pinx Golf Club on the island of Jeju.
The Irishman is one of the leading contenders at the €2 million showpiece, the first European Tour event to be held in Korea.
World Number Five KJ Choi, Yang Yong Eun and SK Ho will mount a powerful challenge on behalf of the host nation, whilst emerging American talent Anthony Kim – whose parents were born in Korea – is another strong contender.
Harrington said: “I’m not familiar with all the local Korean players, but obviously KJ [Choi] and Anthony [Kim] and a few others are very strong. Ballantine’s has put such a great field together. This is the first time The European Tour has been here, so the Korean players are going to be up for it this week – no question. I would expect to see both KJ and Anthony thereabouts on Sunday, and hopefully I’ll be up there fighting it out with them.”
Harrington is full of admiration for both Choi – seven times a winner on the US PGA Tour – and Kim.
He said: “I’ve played quite a lot with KJ over the years, and the best word to describe him is relentless. He just keeps doing his thing. He appears to be very self-confident, and goes about his business in his way. KJ Choi is trying to be KJ Choi – he’s not trying to be anybody else. It’s an intimidating factor when a player’s comfortable with who he is, and KJ certainly has that.”
Should Harrington overcome Choi and the rest of the field at the tri-sanctioned tournament, he has the perfect place in mind for the trophy – his kitchen table.
That is where he keeps the Claret Jug as a daily reminder of his famous victory at Carnoustie last year.
He said: “Every morning when I come down, I open the kitchen door and have my breakfast while it sits there. It seems like it’s at home there.”
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