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Top names commit to Johnnie Walker Classic

Australian Robert Allenby can expect a warm welcome when he returns to Australia in February to compete in the £1.25 million Johnnie Walker Classic at the Vines Resort in Perth.

At the end of last year, Allenby captured the imagination of the Australian sporting public winning Australian golf’s version of the ‘Triple Crown’. In three straight weeks spanning late November and early December, the 34-year-old won the MFS Australian Open, the Australian PGA Championship and the MasterCard Australian Masters - an unprecedented feat in Australian golf. By playing in the Johnnie Walker Classic, he will be hoping to add another prestigious title plus a first prize of £208,333 – the biggest on the Australasian Tour - to his haul of silverware.

Once ranked inside the world’s top 15, Allenby has surged back up the world rankings to the top 40 in the world. He has an impressive playing record having won 20 professional events on the US, European and Australasian Tours. He finished third behind Fred Couples in the 1995 Johnnie Walker Classic and tied for fourth in 2003 in Perth.

Allenby will be joined by Freddie Couples, the 1995 Johnnie Walker Classic winner and past US Masters champion from February 9 to 12. The popular American, along with Argentina’s world No. 11 Angel Cabrera and the red-hot Allenby, will join a host of international stars at the 15th staging of this prestigious event, sponsored by the world’s leading Scotch Whisky brand.

The field will also be boosted by two recent champions, following the 2005 European Tour Order of Merit winner and world No. 8 Colin Montgomerie’s win at the UBS Hong Kong Open and Paul Casey’s victory at the Volvo China Masters. Both of these in-form players will no doubt be keen to hold aloft the prestigious ‘Striding Man’ trophy and join the elite club of Johnnie Walker Classic champions.

"I've always enjoyed playing in the Johnnie Walker Classic in the past and have had some pretty good results, so I'm really looking forward to playing in Perth, and especially to getting back to Australia,” commented Couples earlier this week. “After a break of some nine years it'll be fun catching up with everyone again."

Currently ranked 26 in the world, Couples has a tremendous record in the Johnnie Walker Classic. He won the event at The Orchard Golf and Country Club in Manila in 1995 beating Nick Price by two strokes. Only a year earlier in Thailand, Couples finished second just a shot shy of Greg Norman. He also tied for seventh in 1993, sixth in 1996 and fourth in 1997.

Couples has won 20 titles worldwide during his career including 15 on the US PGA Tour. He overcame some long-running back problems in 2003, and in true “Keep Walking” style he won the Shell Houston Open – his first win in five years. Couples won the US Masters in 1992 and has finished in the top 10 at Augusta on nine occasions. He also has a fine record in the Open Championship, posting nine top 10 finishes, and last year he tied for third at St Andrews behind Tiger Woods and Colin Montgomerie. He recorded three other top-10 results on the US Tour in 2005 including a second place finish at the Memorial Tournament for the second consecutive year.

Couples will also play alongside a record number of past winners of the Johnnie Walker Classic in Perth with six confirmed including world No. 4 and two-time US Open winner Retief Goosen, defending champion and world No. 9 Adam Scott, reigning US Open champion Michael Campbell and 1991 US Masters champion Ian Woosnam.

Angel Cabrera is South America’s premier golfer and a three-time winner on the European Tour. His 2005 highlights included winning the European Tour’s flagship event - the BMW Championship - at Wentworth in May. Cabrera also finished second at the Deutsche Bank Players Championship of Europe after being edged out in a playoff by Niclas Fasth and returned to Wentworth in September to make a run to the semi-finals of the HSBC World Match Play Championship. Cabrera ended up in fifth place on the European Tour Order of Merit - his best ever result after finishing in the top 15 on five previous occasions.

He returned to his homeland in December for the Argentine Open (which he won in 2001 for his first European Tour win) and tied for second. Noted for his length off the tee, Cabrera led the Driving Distance Stats on the European Tour in 2005 with an average of 306 yards.

Commenting on the player announcements, Ben Anderson, Global Brand Director for Johnnie Walker said: “The 2006 Johnnie Walker Classic is shaping up to be a real tournament of Champions, with five former Johnnie Walker Classic Champions and 14 Champions of other tournaments from the past year all confirmed. This is what the Johnnie Walker Classic is all about; bringing the most inspirational and successful names in golf to the Asia Pacific region where we hope their performance will inspire many people to “Keep Walking” towards their own dreams.”

The Johnnie Walker Classic is jointly owned by DIAGEO, the world's leading premium drinks business and IMG, the world's premier sports, lifestyle management and marketing company, is sanctioned by the European, Asian and Australasian Tours and is supported by the Western Australian Government through EventsCorp, a division of Tourism Western Australia.

January 12, 2006


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