Westwood to make history
Korea - Lee Westwood is guaranteed a hero’s welcome in Korea this week as the first current world No.1 to play in the country.
The English ace will be the star attraction in a stellar field teeing it up in the Ballantine’s Championship, which begins on Thursday at Blackstone Golf Club near Seoul.
Westwood returned to the top ranking on Sunday courtesy of his victory in the Indonesian Masters coupled with compatriot Luke Donald failing to win The Heritage tournament in the USA.
“I’m delighted to be coming to the Ballantine’s Championship as world No.1,” said Westwood. “Being top of the Official World Golf Ranking makes me feel very proud and I’m sure Korea’s knowledgeable and passionate golf fans are aware of the hard work and dedication it takes to reach that position.
“I’m very much looking forward to the tournament and hopefully I’ll give the galleries plenty to cheer about in the coming days.”
Westwood’s landmark appearance at this week’s Ballantine’s Championship was hailed by David Ciclitira, chairman of event promoter Parallel Media Group.
“When we first brought the Ballantine’s Championship to Korea in 2008 our vision was to give the Korean public the best, and only the best, in the world of professional golf,” he said.
“To have the current world No.1 appearing in the tournament is a fulfillment of that vision and testament to the ambition and aspiration of Ballantine’s and the many other people involved in the event.
“On behalf of Parallel Media Group and the Ballantine’s Championship, we would like to congratulate Lee on his achievement and we’re sure the Korean fans will be turning out in large numbers this week to applaud him.”
Westwood, who previously held the No.1 ranking from 1 November last year until 28 February, began last week at No.2 behind Germany’s Martin Kaymer. His three-shot victory in the Indonesian Masters put him in position to return to the top spot and this was confirmed when Donald, who would have leapfrogged to the head of the queue from No.3 with victory in The Heritage, lost in a playoff to Brandt Snedeker.
Aside from Westwood, the elite field at Blackstone this week includes three-time Major winner Ernie Els, PGA Tour star Dustin Johnson and Ryder Cup duo Ian Poulter and Miguel Ángel Jiménez.
YE Yang – Asia’s first ever Major winner – will lead a strong Korean challenge that also includes teenage sensation Noh Seung Yul, the reigning Asian Tour Order of Merit champion, and Kim Kyung Tae, a three-time winner in Japan last year.
Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee, winner of the Ballantine’s Championship in 2009 and runner-up to Westwood in Indonesia, is also in the line-up at Blackstone together with the defending champion, Marcus Fraser of Australia.
The 2011 Ballantine’s Championship will once again be co-sanctioned by the European Tour, Asian Tour and Korea PGA.