Gleneagles plays host to the 14th instalment of the Johnnie Walker Championship this week, with the 156 man field all eager to take on the new challenge offered by a remodelled PGA Centenary Course and a £1.4 million prize fund 23-26 August.
In an all star cast, twenty-six nationalities are represented in a field that includes a 24-man strong Scottish contingent for home fans to follow. The 2012 Johnnie Walker Championship field has amassed a remarkable 260 European Tour titles between them, including seven Majors. Joining defending Champion Thomas Björn and his fellow 2012 European Ryder Cup Vice Captains, Darren Clarke and Paul McGinley are Paul Lawrie, Francesco Molinari, Rafael Cabrera-Bello and Nicolas Colsaerts amongst others, who will all be looking to take the title off Björn’s hands.
Björn, who European Ryder Cup Captain, José María Olazábal named as one of his four Vice Captains last Thursday, is looking forward to defending his title at Gleneagles, a course that has undergone significant changes ahead of hosting the 2014 Ryder Cup.
“Winning the 2011 Johnnie Walker Championship was one of the highlights of last season,” said Björn. “To come back as Champion is very special and I’m raring to get going and see the new alterations first hand, especially the 18th green. Gleneagles and Diageo treat the players very well and I always enjoy coming back to this part of Scotland.”
Whilst eyes will be on Björn and whether he can defend his title, the Johnnie Walker Championship is also in the limelight due to the year-long race for European Ryder Cup places reaching its climax this week.
Whilst Sergio Garcia confirmed his spot with a convincing win at the Wyndham Championship at the weekend, Ryder Cup hopefuls Rafael Cabrera- Bello, Nicolas Colsaerts and US PGA Championship runner-up David Lynn are all hoping they can do enough to be in Jose Maria Olazabal’s team come Sunday. All three can oust the player in the last automatic spot, German Martin Kaymer, from the side. Captain Olazábal will name his two wild card picks the following day and a good performance may be enough to convince the Spaniard they should be on that plane to Medinah in just over a month’s time.
One man who has his seat booked already is home favourite and former Open Champion, Paul Lawrie. Lawrie qualifies fourth on the European points table and the Scot, who ends a 13-year European team appearance drought, is keen to put on a good display at Gleneagles.
“I’m thrilled to know that my place in the 2012 Ryder Cup team is now secure” said the Aberdonian. “My focus is on the here and now though and that continues with playing well here at Gleneagles. This is my twelfth Johnnie Walker Championship and it’s a tournament I really enjoy. I really hope the Scottish golf fans are out in force and enjoy the golf on show.”
Other Scots who will be gunning for the Johnnie Walker Championship trophy and £233,330 winner’s purse include former Ryder Cup Captain and Championship Chairman Colin Montgomerie, West Lothian’s Stephen Gallacher, who has a history of playing well at Gleneagles, 2007 Champion Marc Warren, Glaswegian Alastair Forsyth and Gleneagles Scottish PGA Champion Graham Fox, amongst others.
Championship Director, Graeme Marchbank of Diageo, official partners of The 2014 Ryder Cup commented, “It’s great to see that is so much to play for here at the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles this week. There is a real buzz about this year’s Championship and we are looking forward to hosting our defending Champion Thomas Björn and the rest of the field here in Perthshire. Being host to the 2014 Ryder Cup, Gleneagles is a fitting stage for the 2012 Ryder Cup race to go right down to the wire, so let battle commence.”
The prize fund is £1.4 million with the winner receiving a cheque for £233,330. The 2012 Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles will again be broadcast on Sky Sports.
For the second successive year the Championship organisers have set the Friday ticket price to just £5. Once again, Gleneagles will donate all the revenue from on-the-day ticket sales to ClubGolf –Scotland’s junior golf development programme.
Tickets are available at the course and at www.europeantourtickets.com. Parking is free.
Johnnie Walker Championship www.johnniewalkerchampionship.com
The Gleneagles Hotel www.gleneagles.com.
Image saved 2011 Champion Thomas Bjorn.jpg