Bernd Wiesberger is looking forward to the challenge of defending a European Tour title for the first time when he returns to Korea for next week’s Ballantine’s Championship.
The 28 year old Austrian captured his maiden victory in emphatic style at Blackstone Golf Club last year, sinking a 20ft birdie putt on the last hole to seal a five stroke win over Scotland’s Richie Ramsay and claim the €367,500 first prize.
Just 14 weeks later, he added a second win in equally impressive fashion on home soil in the Lyoness Open powered by Greenfinity, coming from four shots back to card a final round 65 for a three shot victory in his national Open.
Those two triumphs, as well as three other top ten finishes, helped Wiesberger to finish in 22nd position on The 2012 Race to Dubai, and also earned him places in the fields for the US PGA Championship, the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and WGC-HSBC Champions.
As a result of the experience gained in the wake of his breakthrough victory, Wiesberger believes that he returns to Blackstone Golf Club, near the Korean capital Seoul, as a better player and is relishing the chance to defend his title.
“It’s going to be a nice new experience for me,” he said. “My maiden win in Korea last year was great, and I’m looking forward to having another good week again this year.
“I like the course, I love the tournament and Ballantine’s have been great to me, so I’m looking forward to the challenge.
“I felt like I could win a European Tour event, but I proved it that week. I was able to be a champion. The win gave me the chance to play a Major and a couple of WGC events, which expanded my view of professional golf, allowing me to perform on a higher level with the top players in the world.
“A couple of months afterwards, I was able to win again in Austria, which meant I was a multiple winner. With those two wins, it was a great breakthrough season for me and the victory at Ballantine’s kicked off everything.”
Wiesberger will have another strong field to contend against in the €2,205,000 Ballantine’s Championship, headlined by World Number Seven Louis Oosthuizen, 2009 US PGA Champion YE Yang and American Ryder Cup pair Dustin Johnson and Zach Johnson.
But he hopes to draw on his recollections from last year when, after an opening round of 72, he carded consecutive course records of 65, followed by a closing round of 68 which included three birdies in the final four holes, for an 18 under par winning total of 270.
“Everything went my way from Friday onwards, and I have some great memories from last year,” he said. “Holing that winning putt and finishing well on the Sunday with a couple of birdies was fantastic. I will really enjoy going back and having the chance to defend the title.
“I had great control over my irons into greens last year. The greens at Blackstone are quite severe. You want to hit the right spots, the right plateaus, and know the contours going into them. That was key for me, and on top of that I also had a great putting week.
“If you just miss your target slightly you can run off and leave yourself in awkward spots and you can three putt quickly, but that was something I did well last year and I holed some putts when I needed to.”
As has become tradition at the Ballantine’s Championship since the event’s inception in 2008, Wiesberger had the opportunity to create his own Ballantine’s Championship Blend, which was another enjoyable new experience.
“I have received the Championship Blend of Lee Westwood, who won the year before me, and it’s on a nice display at home,” he said. “I’m getting mine in a couple weeks hopefully. I did the blending the week after Dubai and it was great experience doing it with the guys from Ballantine’s.
“It was nice getting to know what it takes to blend the whisky and it was a fun experience for me. It is only going to be a ten bottle limited edition but hopefully whoever is fortunate to drink it likes it as well.”