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Top class field lined up for Johnnie Walker Classic

A truly international field featuring 24 nations will compete in the 15 th Johnnie Walker Classic taking place February 9-12 at the Vines Resort and Country Club in Perth , Western Australia .

The £1.25 million (Aus$2.8 million) tournament has attracted players from all over the world, including five of the top-15 World Ranked players: Retief Goosen from South Africa, the World no. 3; Defending Champion Adam Scott from Australia, the World no. 10; European no. 1 Colin Montgomerie from Scotland at world number 11;  and popular Kiwi, the current US Open Champion, Michael Campbell, ranked no. 13 in the World and Argentinean Angel Cabrera, the World no. 14.

Joining them will be the 1995 Johnnie Walker Classic Champion and World no. 30 Fred Couples from the USA; Australia's Nick O'Hern, the home town hero, ranked no. 28 in the World; the in-form Robert Allenby, current holder of three of Australia's leading tournament titles including the Australian Open; KJ Choi the no. 1 Korean player ranked 37 in the World, and two leading Australians Mark Hensby and Peter Lonard ranked 40 th and 50 th respectively.

A host of Asia's top players complete the international line-up; Thais Thaworn Wiratchant and Thongchai Jaidee, Asia's number one and two respectively, Indians Jyoti Randhawa, a five-time winner on the Asian Tour, and rising star Shiv Kapur, Filipino legend Frankie Minoza, Singaporean Mardan Mamat and Taiwanese Wang Ter-chang and Lu Wei-chih.

Competing against these established international players in the 156-player field will be a number of players specially invited by Johnnie Walker in recognition of their struggle to succeed against adversity and ‘Keep Walking'. Lee Sung Man from Korea was born deaf and communicates by lip-reading. Although he played baseball as a youngster in his home city of Seoul , he quit the game in favour of golf at 16. Lee won 16 amateur events in Korea before turning pro and moving to the USA where he played on the Nationwide Tour for four years. After losing his playing privileges he was urged by his compatriot KJ Choi to switch his focus to Asia where, subsequently, he won the Asian Tour Qualifying School in January, 2004.

Another Korean player, Eddie Lee was born in Korea but moved with his family to New Zealand at 5 years of age. He took to golf in his new country showing a terrific talent which took him to victory in the 2000 World Junior Championship in Japan . After narrowly losing in the final of the 2002 New Zealand Amateur, Eddie confirmed his outstanding potential by winning on the Asian PGA Tour at the Maekyung Open in Korea as an 18 year old amateur where a final round of 65 earned him a one-stroke victory. Eddie also won the Malaysian Amateur Championship that year and turned pro in late October after representing New Zealand at the 2002 Eisenhower Cup. Eddie is fully exempt on the Asian Tour and finished 4 th at the 2005 BMW Asian Open.

Michael Long, the home town hero from Perth , won the New Zealand Open in 1990 and the Greg Norman Holden Classic in 1999 before suffering a broken neck in a surfing accident. Showing characteristic grit and determination Michael fought back to fitness returning to professional golf in 2000 going on to win two events on the US Nationwide Tour. In addition to an unquestionable strength of character and determination, Michael was awarded the International Fair Play Award in 1999 by His Royal Highness Prince Andrew after he called a penalty shot on himself in the '97 Johnnie Walker Classic. Michael was tied for the lead with Ernie Els at the time but lost by a shot after the call.

Joining the field in Perth as another invitee will be American Kevin Stadler, who lost his US PGA Tour playing privileges last year.  Having been invited to play last week's Buick Open in the US , he finished tied for 24 with David Love, Luke Donald and Stuart Appleby, behind winner and world number one,Tiger Woods.

February 1, 2006

 




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