Bernd Wiesberger has targeted a successful title defence at the Ballantine’s Championship as he seeks to climb into the top 20 of the World Ranking.
The big-hitting Austrian notched his first European Tour title at Blackstone Golf Club 12 months ago, adding the Lyoness Open powered by Greenfinity three months later en route to ending the season in 22nd place in The Race to Dubai.
Wiesberger returns to South Korea on the back of a top five finish in his last appearance, the Trophée Hassan II, a performance which saw him climb to 84th place in the Official World Golf Ranking.
The 27 year old rose as high as 64th in the World at the end of last season, but a relatively sluggish start to the current campaign has seen him slip down the Ranking.
However, after what he termed “the best ball-striking week of the year so far” in Morocco a fortnight ago, the Vienna native is confident of mount a strong title defence in Icheon, near the capital city of Seoul.
Wiesberger said: “I’ve been very happy with my long game all year, but I couldn’t benefit from it the way I would have liked to; but in Morocco, I had probably the best ball striking week of the year so far, and hopefully I can build on that here.
“I’ve been working on the other parts of my game to put a score together, and I think I’m now at that point where if I get a good feel on the greens and hole the odd putt, I can really compete for another victory. So definitely my good finish in Morocco was a real boost.
“I think I can really take some good momentum into this week. I’ve prepared well for the last couple of days in Jakarta with my coach, as I did last year. So I’m pretty happy with my preparation and the way things are moving forward.”
Before Wiesberger romped to victory by five shots last year, his primary aim had been to keep the European Tour card, having originally graduated from the European Challenge Tour in 2010.
But after making his breakthrough at the Ballantine’s Championship and doubling his tally of Tour titles in his native Austria last July, Wiesberger’s horizons were broadened considerably.
He subsequently took his Major Championship bow in the US PGA Championship and qualified for two World Golf Championship events, finishing joint 55th in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and tied 28th in the WGC-HSBC Champions.
Having narrowly missed out on making his debut in the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship this February – he was the first reserve on site, but there were no withdrawals – Wiesberger is doubly determined to ensure his berth in the most prestigious events on the schedule in future.
He said: “Before winning here last year I never really paid too much attention to the World Rankings, so that was definitely a change. I want to progress further up the World Rankings and get myself into a position where I can perform and play at the highest level, and that is the Major Championships, the World Golf events, and the top events all over the world where you can compete against the top players.
“Unfortunately I’ve dropped a little bit down the Ranking in the last couple of weeks, but I think my form is improving now and I’ve managed to climb a couple of spots and hopefully I can get myself into the bigger events.
“I’ll just try to improve my golf game on a daily basis and give myself chances to win tournaments, and if I can do it more often, hopefully I can progress into the top 20 or even top 10 of the World Ranking – that would be a good goal for me to set.”
One of the players Wiesbeger name checked as a strong contender to succeed him as champion was Y E Yang, with whom the Austrian has been paired for the first two rounds.
Yang’s best performance in the Ballantine’s Championship was tied 15th behind Wiesberger last year, and Asia’s first Major Champion is hopeful of improving on his moderate record on his fifth visit to the €2,205,000 event.
He said: “No Korean player has ever won this tournament, so as a Korean player and as an individual, I think that I could have done better. So this year, I’m going to do my best so that we can keep the trophy here.
“As always, it’s very good to be back home playing in front of many Korean fans, who cheer a lot for me. And I’m very appreciative for having this opportunity to be part of the Ballantine’s Championship.
“I’ve never really reciprocated with good performances or good results in the past, so I wanted to be more prudent and cautious this time and really try my best in order to get a good result out there for all the people.
“I am trying to be more focused with my game this time around, and that is why I’ve arrived here early, to prepare as well as possible.”