Ian Poulter, Bae Sang-Moon and Miguel Angel Jiménez are all hoping to be in the mix of the Ballantine’s Championship come Sunday night but, until then, they contented themselves by getting into the mix behind the bar.
The Englishman, Korean and Spaniard swapped their clubs for cocktails shakers at the Gala Dinner which heralded this year’s Championship to produce whisky-blended delights for the hundreds of guests who attend the function at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Seoul.
Poulter returns to Blackstone Golf Club following a hugely encouraging final round performance in last week’s Volvo China Open, when he improved on a frustrating first three days with an impressive closing six under par 66.
That, according to the 36 year old Englishman, was the perfect preparation for this week’s €2,205,000 event, the second staging of the tournament at the exclusive Blackstone resort.
“I am looking forward to getting out there after the final round in China,” said Poulter, who recorded a career-best seventh place finish at the Masters Tournament at the start of the month.
“The first three days in China were frustrating because I was hitting the ball well, but then to go out on Sunday and make a load of birdies and leave a few out there as well tells me I could have gone very low.
“That’s good for the confidence heading to the Ballantine’s Championship, and I feel that I can go there and put on a show. I was disappointed to miss the cut last year because it is a golf course that should suit me and is one that really fits my eye.
“There are a lot of elevation changes, and there are a number of tee shots that you need to be really aggressive on, and I like that. I am driving the ball very well at the moment, and when I do that on any golf course I am going to give myself chances.
“We have some great players in the field this week and if I can keep that standard of play that I had last Sunday then I am pretty hopeful that I can come out on top.”
The World Number 25 is one of the favourites for the week but, just behind him in the Ranking at Number 32 is one of the young men who will carry the bulk of the home support this week, Korean Bae Sang-Moon.
The 25 year old is a regular competitor in the United States and is well known to Poulter having beaten the Englishman in early rounds of the WGC-Accenture Play Championship in Arizona in February. He also lost in a play-off to Luke Donald in the Transitions Championship on the US PGA Tour last month.
“Taking part in the tournaments in the United States which is far away from my home is always tough, and I've always thought that I would like to come back and thank my fans once I do very well in the United States,” he said.
“So there is some pressure because I feel that I have to live up to the expectations of my fans. But it would be great to win this tournament that is being held here in Korea and not in the United States, but there are many top players taking part in this tournament. But I’m going into the week with confidence.”
One man never short of confidence is Spaniard Miguel Angel Jiménez, whose cheerful nature has endeared him to golf fans the world over including Korea.
“I always like to enjoy myself any part of the world I go,” said the 48 year old who has captured 18 European Tour titles. “We are fortunate to have a chance to see all of the cultures around the world for one week at a time.
“For example, this week, one thing we are lucky with is that the people are always nice, always smiling and they have a very good disposition. I like that kind of feeling.
“Of course it’s also pretty well known that I like cigars and wine but I feel you have to enjoy yourself in this life. But also, you have to work. Everybody knows about the wine and the cigars but nobody saw me this morning at 7.30am in the gym, running.
“I work in the gym a good bit because you cannot compete with the new guys coming up if you don’t and that's the other part the people don't see. They see me around the golf course when I'm here or having a glass of wine and a cigar at dinner but they don’t see me working hard. If I didn’t do that, at 48, I wouldn’t be here.”