Heading the customary star-studded field will be three of the world's top ten players: ADAM SCOTT, and RETIEF GOOSEN, currently ranked 4 and 6 in the world respectively, South African ERNIE ELS, the world no. 5, plus English Ryder Cup star, PAUL CASEY.
Adam Scott from Australia, although relatively young, has already established himself as a truly international player with wins all around the world. In 2004, just 23 years old, he became the youngest winner of The Players' Championship on the US PGA Tour, an event considered by many to be the games fifth 'major'. A past winner at the JOHNNIE WALKER CLASSIC, in Beijing in 2005, Adam has this year climbed to no. 4 in the world as a result of his victories in the Barclays Singapore Open and The Tour Championship, his second place finish behind Tiger Woods at the American Express Championship and his 9 top 10 finishes on the US PGA Tour.
South African Retief Goosen, with two US Open Championships to his name, won the 2002 JOHNNIE WALKER CLASSIC in Perth, Western Australia. Having secured the South African Open at the end of last year, Retief has had 11 top 10 finishes in 2006 including runner up spot in The Players' Championship on the US PGA Tour, 3rd place in the US Masters at Augusta and a second consecutive victory in the Volkswagen Masters in China.
Ernie Els, the likeable South African nick-named 'the Big Easy' because of his seemingly effortless swing, is a two-time winner of both the US Open, in 1994 and 1997, and the JOHNNIE WALKER CLASSIC, first in 1997 in Queensland, Australia and again in Perth, Western Australia in 2003. Ernie, who also won The Open Championship in Muirfield, Scotland in 2002, has in all, 35 worldwide victories under his belt. In 2006, recovering from a knee injury that required surgery, Ernie has had 9 top 10 finishes and will be playing in his twelfth JOHNNIE WALKER CLASSIC.
Joining these three top-10 players will be the 29-year-old star PAUL CASEY, currently ranked 15 in the world, who this year has produced some of the most consistent and spectacular golf of his career. Having won the Volvo China Open last November, Paul has had 8 top 10 finishes including victories in the JOHNNIE WALKER CHAMPIONSHIP at Gleneagles, Scotland and the HSBC World Match Play Championship where the ฃ1 million winner's cheque shot him to the top of the European Order of Merit. At this year's JOHNNIE WALKER CLASSIC in Perth, CASEY was awarded the JOHNNIE WALKER Young Golfer of the Year Award following a glorious year when he continued to stamp his mark as one of golf's most exciting players.
Ben Anderson, Global Brand Director for JOHNNIE WALKER commenting on the announcement said, "I am very excited about the JOHNNIE WALKER CLASSIC returning to Phuket, one of the most beautiful golfing destinations in Asia. I'd like to warmly welcome all these great champions back to our tournament. They all embody the values of personal progress that the Johnnie Walker brand communicates through our "Keep Walking" message. We look forward to watching some truly inspirational golf in March."
Phuket and the Blue Canyon Country Club are no strangers to the JOHNNIE WALKER CLASSIC having previously played host to the tournament on two prior occasions. Firstly in 1994 when Greg Norman narrowly pipped Fred Couples for the title and then again in 1998 when Tiger Woods and Ernie Els tied after the regulation 72 holes with Tiger taking the title at the first extra hole.
Since 1998, Blue Canyon has undergone substantial changes including the construction of the new Lakes Course, which compliments the Canyon Course over which the JOHNNIE WALKER CLASSIC will be contested. The Canyon is currently undergoing a programme of 'fine tuning' to ensure the layout provides a searching test for the 156 professionals who will be playing next March. A number of new tees are being constructed and fairways re-shaped in what is only the first phase of a development programme to further enhance the stature and testing nature of the course.
Mr Sia Leng Yuen, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Blue Canyon Country Club said: "We are delighted Johnnie Walker have decided to bring this great tournament back to Phuket and to our Club and we look forward to working with them and their partners IMG in making the 16th JOHNNIE WALKER CLASSIC the best yet".
The JOHNNIE WALKER CLASSIC, with prize money of ฃ1.25m ($2.44m USD), is tri-sanctioned by the European, Asian and Australasian Tours and jointly owned by DIAGEO, the world's leading premium drinks business and IMG, the world's premier sports, lifestyle management and marketing company.