The European Tour heads east again this week, as World Number Seven Louis Oosthuizen and Asia’s first Major Champion YE Yang headline the field for the sixth edition of the Ballantine’s Championship in South Korea.
Blackstone Golf Club, on the outskirts of the South Korean capital Seoul, hosts the €2,205,000 tournament for the third consecutive year, and the venue holds particularly fond memories for defending champion Bernd Wiesberger.
The Austrian claimed his maiden European Tour title in emphatic fashion 12 months ago, sinking a 20ft birdie putt on the last hole to seal a five stroke win over Scotland’s Richie Ramsay and succeed Lee Westwood as champion.
In doing so, Wiesberger became just the third Austrian to win on The European Tour, following Markus Brier and Martin Wiegele, and he went on to add a second title on home soil just 14 weeks later in the Lyoness Open powered by Greenfinity.
The 28 year old, who finished 22nd in The 2012 Race to Dubai, will now be hoping to successfully defend his title, having showed signs that he is returning to top form after finishing tied fifth in his last European Tour outing, the Trophée Hassan II.
After an opening round of 72, Wiesberger’s title charge last year was founded on back-to-back rounds of 65, followed by a closing 68 which included three birdies in the final four holes, for an 18 under par winning total of 270.
He said: “Everything went my way from Friday onwards, and I have some great memories from last year. 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.”
Wiesberger will again face competition from a strong international field, led by South African Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open Champion, who won the Volvo Golf Champions on home soil in January.
Oosthuizen, who is making his debut in the event, will be hoping to bounce back after missing the cut in the Masters Tournament, a year after losing in a play-off to Bubba Watson at Augusta National.
The six-time European Tour winner is one of five champions from the 2013 season in the field, alongside Stephen Gallacher, Scott Jamieson, Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Raphaël Jacquelin, who travels to Korea following his epic play-off victory in the Open de España on Sunday.
Leading the impressive home challenge will be Yang, who became Asia’s first Major Champion when he held off Tiger Woods down the stretch to win the 2009 US PGA Championship.
He will be hoping to become the first Korean player to win the Ballantine’s Championship, with the closest to date being Kang Sung-hoon, who was involved in a play-off in 2009 with Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño and the eventual winner, Thongchai Jaidee.
Joining Yang in the field are his compatriots KT Kim and Bae Sang Moon, while Thailand’s Jaidee will be hoping to continue his formidable record on Asian soil.
The 43 year old has won five of his six European Tour events in Asia, his other victory being last year’s ISPS Handa Wales Open.
Another former Ballantine’s champion, Marcus Fraser of Australia, also tees it up at Blackstone Golf Club hoping to continue his fine record in the event. The 2010 winner finished in a share of third place last year, alongside Victor Dubuisson, the Frenchman who finished tied fourth in his last appearance on Asian soil in the Maybank Malaysian Open.