Golf: Last-minute Championship to tee off in Singapore

Golf: Last-minute Championship to tee off in Singapore
Above: Australian golf player Brett Rumford

SINGAPORE - The hastily rearranged Championship will tee off in Singapore on Thursday after a last-minute shift from South Korea forced players to swiftly change their travel plans.

Some players had to cancel flights, while defending champion Brett Rumford had passport problems and nearly missed last week's Volvo China Open after he sent off for an unneeded Korean visa.

And India's Anirban Lahiri turned up in tropical Singapore with jumpers and jackets which he had packed for chilly South Korea before the venue change was announced earlier this month.

"Those are the hazards of what happens sometimes. But it's part and parcel of what we do and I'm just glad that we've got this tournament here and we still have the playing opportunity," Lahiri said.

The tournament, formerly the Ballantine's Championship, was held at South Korea's Blackstone Golf Club six times from 2008 but was moved three weeks ago after losing its title sponsor.

On Wednesday, players practised on a makeshift driving range at Laguna National Golf and Country Club, which is mid-redevelopment and had little time to prepare for the European and Asian Tour-sanctioned tournament.

The unsponsored Championship is the biggest men's golf event in Singapore this year with the Singapore Open, once known as "Asia's major", sidelined since the withdrawal of its title sponsor.

It underlines a difficult year for Asian golf with only seven confirmed tournaments on the Asian Tour schedule so far this year. Previous full seasons have had more than 20 tournaments.

"We are fortunate to have the tournament from what I've heard," said Bernd Wiesberger, winner of the Ballantine's in 2012.

"We lost the tournament at Blackstone, which was a shame for me as I'd played well there for two years.

"But it is great to be here in Singapore and we have to pay a great deal of credit to everyone for setting up a tournament like this in such a short period of time."

Despite the late move, the Championship, which has few recognised stars, is a valuable opportunity for Asia-based players to get a win which would give them valuable access to the European Tour.

"One of my goals is to be playing in Europe, and this is one of those chances," said Lahiri, who is on a roll after winning last week's CIMB Niaga Indonesian Masters.

Kang Sung-Hoon paid tribute to the victims of this month's ferry disaster, when a vessel headed to Jeju island - former home of the Championship - capsized leaving 210 dead and 92 missing.

"So I'll just do my best, get a good result and give them at least a little bit of consolation," said the South Korean.

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