Fired-Up Els Aims for Hat-Trick at JOHNNIE WALKER CLASSIC

Apr 20, 2005, 01:00 ET from JOHNNIE WALKER

   BEIJING, April 20 /Xinhua-PRNewswire/ -- South African superstar Ernie Els
 is looking to become the first three-time winner of the US$2.3 million Johnnie
 Walker Classic which is to be staged in mainland China for the first time this
     The world number three headlines an elite line-up at Pine Valley Golf
 Resort and Country Club which includes three other top-10 players in
 compatriot Retief Goosen, Spain's Sergio Garcia and Adam Scott of Australia
 and defending champion, Miguel Angel Jimenez.
     Asia's challenge will come from its victorious Dynasty Cup team members,
 who trounced Japan, whilst Korea's Choi Kyung-ju, a two-time winner on the US
 PGA Tour, makes his first appearance in Asia this season.
     "I've never been to Beijing and Johnnie Walker events have been good to
 me. I've won this a couple of times and I have also played quite a lot in
 Asia, so it is interesting for me to have the two combined here this week,"
 said Els, who won this event in 1997 and 2003.
     Goosen, ranked fifth in the world, is also a former winner of the Johnnie
 Walker Classic, taking an eight-shot victory in Perth three years ago.  "You
 know, I would have liked to have won some tournaments already this year but my
 golf hasn't been as good as I want it to be.  I think it's getting better and
 I'll try to see if I can win this Johnnie Walker Classic," said Goosen, who
 currently tops the European Tour Order of Merit.
     With strong and chilly winds prevailing over Beijing this week, playing
 conditions are expected to test the golfers bidding for the prestigious title,
 won previously by luminaries such as Tiger Woods, Greg Norman and Fred
     Asia's flagbearers in the region's richest event and tri-sanctioned by the
 European, Asian and Australasian Tours will no doubt be carried by home heroes
 Zhang Lian-wei and Liang Wen-chong as well as Asian Tour number one Thongchai
 Jaidee and India's Jyoti Randhawa, who was tied second behind Jimenez in last
 year's event held in Bangkok.
     Another Indian, Rahil Gangjee, is hoping to play his way back into the
 headlines in the Johnnie Walker Classic.  Twelve months ago, the slightly
 built Gangjee claimed his first Asian Tour triumph at the Jack Nicklaus-
 designed Pine Valley, winning the inaugural Volkswagen Masters.
     "It's good to be back on this course and I'm looking forward to a good
 week here, especially as it's got a great field," said the 26-year-old
     Like Ganjee, Angelo Que of the Philippines was a first-time winner last
 season and his career has skyrocketed since then.  The Manila-based Que
 secured the winning point for Asia last week but knows it's back to individual
 business here.
     Other top names vying for the Johnnie Walker Classic title include seven-
 time European Tour number one Colin Montgomerie, six-time Major champion Nick
 Faldo, Ryder Cup stars Luke Donald and Paul Casey and Denmark's Thomas Bjorn,
 who was tied second with Randhawa last year.
     For further enquiries, please contact Burson-Marsteller at:
     Holly Hu - Shanghai
     Tel:     +86-21-6249-1640 ext. 171
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