ERNIE KNOWS MAN TO BEAT

Ernie Els of South Africa chips the ball out of the bunker at the 14th green during the last day of the 2007 Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City in the North West Province. PICTURE: SYDNEY SESHIBEDI 02/12/2007
Ernie Els of South Africa chips the ball out of the bunker at the 14th green during the last day of the 2007 Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City in the North West Province. PICTURE: SYDNEY SESHIBEDI 02/12/2007

SOUTH KOREA - In-form South African golfer Ernie Els, Yang Yong-Eun and Anthony Kim lead a strong field that tees off at the Ballantine's Championship today on the South Korean holiday island of Jeju.

SOUTH KOREA - In-form South African golfer Ernie Els, Yang Yong-Eun and Anthony Kim lead a strong field that tees off at the Ballantine's Championship today on the South Korean holiday island of Jeju.

Swedish ace Henrik Stenson, Korea's teenage sensation Noh Seung-Yul and defending champion Thongchai Jaidee could also have a major say at Pinx Golf Club, in an event sanctioned by the Asian Tour, European Tour and Korean PGA.

"I've been playing in Asia since 1992 and I've seen the game and its players develop enormously in that time," said three-time major winner Els, who identified the Korean challenge as the main threat.

"The world knows all about the strength of women's golf here and now the men are coming through as well, and I imagine there are players lining up to follow in the footsteps of guys like YE Yang and KJ Choi."

Noh shared 46th place last year, but the 18-year-old expects to do far better this time.

"My game has improved a lot over the past year. I'm very focused and determined, but I also try to enjoy my golf and do the best I can," Noh said.

Thailand's Thongchai said his 12th Asian Tour title at the Pinx Golf Club last season, when he battled through unusually cold and windy conditions to triumph in a dramatic three-way playoff, was "my biggest career win ever".

Stenson said mastering the often cold and blustery conditions in Jeju will be crucial.

"The key thing about playing in the wind is to always control your ball flight and I've had lots of good finishes in the past in such difficult conditions." he said. - Sapa-AFP

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