SEOUL, South Korea – Lee Westwood hopes to put on a show in the Ballantine’s Championship this week as the first No. 1-ranked golfer to play in South Korea.
Westwood reclaimed the top ranking from Martin Kaymer when he won the Indonesian Masters by three strokes in Jakarta on Sunday, his 38th birthday. Fellow Englishman Luke Donald could have overtaken Westwood hours later at the Heritage, but lost the U.S. PGA Tour event in a playoff.
“It’s nice to get back to No. 1. I played well last week and my confidence is high,” Westwood said on Tuesday.
“I’ve great expectations of myself and I hope to do well and win this championship on Sunday afternoon. 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 shot 68-66-66-69 on Royale Jakarta for his seventh win in Asia, and was keen to pull off consecutive wins.
“The world rankings are all about consistency and playing well week-in and week-out, which I tend to do,” he said. “The secret to being world No. 1 is having the consistency, and all parts of your game have to be good to do that.”
The Ballantine’s, co-sanctioned by the Asian and European Tours and the Korean PGA, has moved from Jeju Island to Blackstone Golf Club in Icheon, outside Seoul but will feature its strongest field yet.
Local hopes for a first Korean winner are carried mainly by Y.E. Yang, the 2009 U.S. PGA champion.
“My message to my Korean fans is this: I don’t play that often in Korea,” said Yang, who hails from Jeju.
“I come maybe every six months, in spring and autumn, and I think the best way to reward them is a win. I always try to do my best whenever I compete and I’ll do the same again this week.”
Also entered are Ernie Els, Ian Poulter, Miguel Angel Jimenez, 2009 winner Thongchai Jaidee, and highly rated Korean Noh Seung-yul, 19, who finished fourth in 2010 and went on to become the youngest winner of the Asian Tour’s Order of Merit.
Els has finished in the top 10 in the past two Ballantine’s.
“They get a number of really good players, so if you can win, you’ve beaten a really good field,” Els said. “I would love to win, especially on a new course.”
The defending champion was Marcus Fraser of Australia.