Our team in Korea brings you all of the action from behind the scenes at the Ballantine’s Championship.
A rare blend
It has been well documented on europeantour.com in recent weeks that this month marks the 40th anniversary of the first European Tour event, the Open de España in April 1972. It perhaps demonstrates just how much the Tour has grown during that time that we are in here in Korea this week, with an international field pitting some of the world’s leading players alongside Asia’s top talent. In recognition of the special milestone, The European Tour Chief Executive George O’Grady was presented with an ultra-rare bottle of 40 year old Ballantine’s by Christian Porta, Chivas Brothers Chairman and CEO. Only 100 bottles of the whisky, launched earlier this year in Korea, will be made available each year so George is in an exclusive group of people to have received one so far. Obviously part of our job is to assist the Chief Executive wherever possible, so if he needs a hand drinking it we are on stand-by!
Another anniversary…and a wedding
Of course, while the Tour is celebrating its 40th anniversary this month, we are also marking the fifth anniversary of the Ballantine’s Championship itself this week. Having moved from Pinx Golf Club on Jeju Island to Blackstone Golf Club near Seoul last year, the Championship is now firmly established on The European Tour International Schedule. Among the debutants this year are World Number 12 Adam Scott and Open Champion Darren Clarke. Scott came to Korea on the back of a fine final round in the Masters Tournament, where he carded a closing 66 to finish tied eighth. Meanwhile Clarke took a bit of time off after Augusta to go on holiday to the Bahamas where he got married to Alison, who was by his side when he won the Claret Jug last year. The Northern Irishman has brought the famous trophy with him to Korea this week and it proved to be something of a hit at the gala dinner, with many of the locals keen to have their picture taken with it. Darren, of course, will be keen to have his picture taken with another trophy this week – the Ballantine’s Championship trophy – and as a man who enjoys the finer things in life, I’m sure he wouldn’t mind having a go at creating the Ballantine’s Champion’s Blend, a privilege given to the winner of the tournament each year.
Hard work paying off
Another player who would relish the opportunity to create his own Ballantine’s blend is Miguel Angel Jimenéz, who finished runner up here last year. The Spaniard is renowned for enjoying his wine and cigars but he gave the local media an insight to another side of him during his pre-tournament press conference.
Miguel said: “You have to enjoy yourself. And also, you have to work. Nobody sees me this morning at 7.30 in the gym, running. You cannot compete with these new people coming up if you want to keep longer, and that's the part that people don't see. They see you around the golf course, when and having a cigar, and having a glass of wine. But without working hard, at 48, I would not be here.”
Keeping up appearances
Ian Poulter is doing his best to ensure the officials here this week look as sharp as he always does. The Englishman’s clothing label IJP design is the Official Clothing of the Ballantine’s Championship, with his dress sense always a hit with the Asian golf fans. Poults was asked about his flair for fashion in his press conference on Wednesday.
He said: “Koreans like to dress well. They like lots of colour, and obviously for me to be able to bring my clothing line to Korea and wear it and basically showcase it over here, I think people relate to that. I have a good relationship with pretty much most of Asia, but Korea especially is a place that I like to come and play golf because I've got such a good fan base.”
Korea is renowned for its technological advancements but one we weren’t quite prepared for this week is the toilets both in our hotel and here at the clubhouse at Blackstone Golf Club. Not only are the seats heated, but there are a various array of buttons attached to the side of the toilet to help make one of life’s necessary occasions a cleaner, and indeed, more enjoyable experience. For those of you who have seen Pimp My Ride, the MTV show in which people customise and soup-up their cars, well, this is basically like the lavatory version of that. A sentence I never thought I would write.