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Top players sign up to Johnnie Walker Classic

The 2005 Johnnie Walker Classic to be held in China has attracted three top stars of international golf; South African Ernie Els, England's Nick Faldo and defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez of Spain.

Presented by Johnnie Walker, the world's leading Scotch whisky, the Johnnie Walker Classic is Asia Pacific's premier golf event and will be taking place at the prestigious Pine Valley Golf Resort and Country Club in Beijing  from April 21-24.

Els, ranked world number three, will be playing in Beijing for the very first time when he competes in the 2005 tournament. The Pine Valley Course, designed by his friend Jack Nicklaus, will suit Els' game and he will be aiming to become the first player ever to win the prestigious Johnnie Walker Classic title a record three times, having previously won in 1997 and 2003.

Els, known as the "Big Easy", has had a year where most of his fellow professional golfers would envy. With five tournament wins around the world, including the HSBC World Match Play Championship for a record sixth time, he finished the year on top of the Volvo Order of Merit, the European Money List and in third place on the US PGA Tour Money List with total worldwide winnings of over US$7 million.

Joining Els will be six-time major winner Nick Faldo, England 's most successful golfer. Faldo has won the US Masters three times, in 1987, 1990 and 1992. The popular Englishman was also the winner of the very first Johnnie Walker Classic at the Hong Kong Golf Club in 1990, a feat he repeated in 1993 at the Singapore Island Country Club. Faldo has a total of 42 tournament wins around the world and most recently won the ADT Golf Skills Challenge in West Palm Beach , Florida USA .

Els and Faldo will be joined by European Ryder Cup star, Miguel Angel Jiménez. The colourful Spaniard won the 2004 Johnnie Walker Classic after a thrilling final round at Bangkok's Alpine Golf and Sports Club last February, snatching victory in the closing holes from Denmark's Thomas Bjorn.

Jimenez's victory was to be the first of four wins on the 2004 European Tour for the pony-tailed Spaniard that cemented his place on the victorious European Ryder Cup Team and helped him secure fourth place on the 2004 Volvo Order of Merit.

After the 2005 European Tour season got underway in November, Jimenez immediately struck form by winning the Omega Hong Kong Open and in so doing, rocketed his world ranking to a career high of 12.

These three golfing superstars are the first of a galaxy of star players scheduled to take their places in the 156-player field competing for record prize money of £1.25 million at Pine Valley when the Johnnie Walker Classic will be played in mainland China for the first time in the event's 14-year history.

Commenting on the entry of these world-class players, the Global Brand Director for Johnnie Walker, Ben Anderson said, "Els, Faldo and Jimenez are all truly inspirational golfers and sportsmen. They each embody the philosophy at the heart of the Johnnie Walker brand and inspire each of us to "Keep Walking", to take the next step on our own journeys, regardless of the success we enjoy or the challenges we face."

The 2005 Johnnie Walker Classic will be jointly sanctioned by the European, Asian and Australasian Tours and by the China Golf Association.

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