The globetrotting Johnnie Walker Classic – one of the most well travelled tournaments in golf – touches down in Australia this week with a host of star players that collectively represent The European Tour’s mass appeal.
Over the past 19 years, the Johnnie Walker Classic has been played in eight different countries and 13 different golf clubs around the Asia Pacific region, including China in 2005 and for the first time last year India, reflecting the brand’s “Keep Walking” philosophy of continuous progress.
It will be the tournament’s fourth visit to Perth and two of the game’s most flamboyant characters – Ian Poulter and Camilo Villegas – will strut their stuff at the magnificent Vines Resort and Country Club alongside the explosive talents of Paul Casey and Anthony Kim; European Ryder Cup Captain, Colin Montgomerie; Australia’s most famous ‘Great White Shark’, Greg Norman, and one of golf’s permanent class acts, Lee Westwood.
They will be joined by defending champion, New Zealander Mark Brown, who produced five stunning birdies on the back nine of his final round for a three stroke victory and his maiden European Tour title at DLF Golf and Country Club in New Delhi, India, 12 months ago.
The Johnnie Walker Classic is synonymous with success: the former winners of the event, since its inception in 1992, have produced a total 183 European Tour wins and 28 Major Championships between them – an impressive record in anyone’s language.
Poulter is making his first competitive appearance since November having undergone corrective eye surgery last month. The Englishman, the leading points scorer with four points out of a possible five at The 2008 Ryder Cup is raring to go in Perth.
“I wasn't planning to have quite such a break, but I'd had this problem with my eyes for a few years and when I was told it could be fixed, I went for it,” he said.
Villegas will be hoping to recreate the form which saw him capture both the BMW Championship and The Tour Championship on the US PGA Tour last year, while Kim is hoping to improve upon his tied 33rd place finish in last week’s Maybank Malaysian Open.
Kim said: “I’m very excited to play in my first Johnnie Walker Classic. I’m really enjoying playing in tournaments all around the world, and I can’t wait to visit Perth. One of my goals this year is to win my first European Tour title, and it would be great to do that at the Johnnie Walker Classic.”
Montgomerie, Norman and Westwood, meanwhile, need no introduction.
Together, the trio have won 153 tournaments around the world, but Norman is the only one of the three to have taken the Johnnie Walker Classic having won the 1994 edition in Thailand and will look to rekindle the form that saw him push Padraig Harrington all the way in last year’s Open Championship at Royal Birkdale.
Montgomerie, winner of 31 European Tour titles, has been a regular competitor in the Johnnie Walker Classic during the past two decades.
He said: “I’m really looking forward to playing in Perth. The Johnnie Walker Classic is a tournament I always enjoy, and yet it’s one I haven’t managed to win. I came pretty close when I finished second to Nick Faldo in Singapore in 1993, and have had a few top ten finishes over the years. But it’s certainly a title I would like to have on my CV, and I hope this will be the year.”