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Friday, 19 March 2010
Lee Westwood  (Getty Images)
Lee Westwood (Getty Images)

American Fred Couples, Sweden’s Henrik Stenson and England’s Lee Westwood – three of the Ballantine’s Championship’s star players – are hoping to live up to the Scottish whisky company’s brand message and ‘Leave an Impression’ at the Pinx Golf Club this week.

The ultimate impression, of course, would be to top the leaderboard come Sunday night, and the trio are all eyeing the magnificent trophy as well as the lion’s share of the €2.1 million prize fund on offer.

“I haven't won for over a year now, so I would like to get back to winning,” said Westwood, who has an excellent record in Asia with victories in Japan, Macau and Malaysia, but is making his first visit to Korea.

“I was close last year, but lost a couple of play-offs. I finished close in the World Golf Championships event at Akron and close at the US Open, where I was third.

“So my form’s been good. I played well a couple of weeks ago at the Masters but had a bad finish on the last four holes, and I played well in Houston the week before. My game has been good, but I’ve just not been finishing the weeks off. It will be good to get some form together this week, and try to convert it into a win.”

For his part, World Number Nine Stenson is keen to show the Korean people just why he is the highest ranked player in the field this week.

“It's my first time to Korea, and I have heard that the fans are excited to have everybody back here for the tournament,” said the Swede. “I would like just to have them to get to know me a little bit better, and hopefully I can show off some good golf and win a few fans over.

“Obviously the best way to do that would be to win the tournament, and that’s certainly the ultimate goal for the week.”

Couples, meanwhile, does not have to try to win over any local fans: the former Masters Champion is already a hugely popular figure in the golf-mad nation, and is making his third career appearance in Korea.

He said: “It’s a privilege to be here – it’s a huge event.  It’s my third time in Korea but my first time on Jeju island, so I’m excited to be here.

“I’ve been travelling since The Open Championship in 1983, and the most fun is playing in front of people you don’t usually play in front of.  So when I come to places Korea, I want to play well.  There’s probably more pressure, but that’s a good thing.  If you play at home in the United States they see you all the time, so coming here gives me that little extra incentive.

“One of the best parts is coming and playing in a different place, which would be true whether you are in Japan or Australia or Korea.  It’s a learning experience, and it’s a lot of fun.”

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
T1FDEZ-CASTAÑO, GonzaloESP18-4
T1JAIDEE, ThongchaiTHA18-4
T1KANG, Sung-hoonKOR18-4
T4ELS, ErnieRSA18-2
T4DERKSEN, Robert-JanNED18-2
T4BENSON, SeveENG18-2
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