Dream Win for Dazzling Danny

Sun 22 Feb 2009

Dream Win for Dazzling Danny


Perth, Western Australia, February 22: New Zealand's amateur sensation Danny Lee showed why he is a star in the making when he claimed a dream victory at the Johnnie Walker Classic on Sunday.

The 18-year-old birdied his closing two holes for a five-under-par 67 to edge out Japan's Hiroyuki Fujita, Felipe Aguilar of Chile and overnight co-leader Ross McGowan of England by one stroke at The Vines Resort and Country Club in Western Australia.

It was a terrific performance by the Korean-born Lee, who first made the world sit up and take notice of his prodigious talent when he became the youngest winner at the US Amateur Championship last year, eclipsing Tiger Woods' record.


The victory, courtesy of his winning total of 17-under-par 271, made Lee the first amateur to win the prestigious Johnnie Walker Classic in 18 editions where past champions include his idol Woods, Greg Norman, Ernie Els, Fred Couples and Nick Faldo.

"It feels like I'm in a dream and I hope nobody wakes me up," said Lee, who wasn't eligible to win the US$304,286 top cheque due to his amateur status.


"I have won a couple of amateur tournaments before, but this is a different feeling than that. This is a pro event, and all I wanted to do here was to make the cut and get into the top-20. That was my goal and today I played extremely well and I won."


Lee's triumph made him the fifth youngest winner on the Asian Tour and youngest on the European Tour at the age of 18 years and 213 days. He also became the fourth amateur to win a professional tournament in Asia and second to do so in a European Tour event.

Starting the day two off the lead, Lee was one under through 12 holes with three birdies and two bogeys before producing four brilliant birdies over his closing six holes to etch his name on one of Asia's most prestigious trophies.

It was however a crucial 12-foot par save on the 16th hole which kept Lee firmly in the title chase. "I was 15-under and the leader was at 16, so I was thinking, this is the putt if you want to win the tournament. I was really focused on the putt and I made it," he said.


Lee will compete in the US Masters in April courtesy of his victory in the US Amateur and will subsequently turn professional where he will have the option of taking up membership on the Asian Tour, European Tour and PGA Tour of Australasia, which tri-sanctioned the Johnnie Walker Classic.


"I've played the Asian Tour events and The European Tour events and I just loved them.It's a great experience and they treat you really nicely, and you know, I wish I could play in every Tour event I can," said Lee.


When asked what his goals were in golf, he replied: "The next Tiger Woods maybe. I can't compare to Tiger because he's one of the greatest players in the world, and he's the No. 1 ranked player in the world and all I want to do is just break what he's done and obviously I can't win three events in a row, the U.S. Amateur, but I'll try to break his record on the PGA Tour."


Fujita, winner of the Pine Valley Beijing Open on the Asian Tour last season, overcame a poor start to charge up the leaderboard and set the clubhouse mark of 16-under-par with two closing birdies for a 67.

"I did my best and played a near perfect round. I missed a few putts but still holed some. All credit to Danny as he is a very good player," said Fujita, who has won five times in Japan. "I didn't have the best of starts when I bogeyed the first hole. I duffed my approach shot and had a 'fried egg' in the bunker. But I didn't give up and fought hard and got some birdies in the end. I'm happy with how I played as this was my first tournament of the season."

McGowan opened up a two-shot lead after an eagle on the ninth hole and birdied the 12th hole to maintain his push for a maiden professional victory. However, bogeys on the 14th and 16th hole saw him slip back and he missed an eagle chance from 25 feet to force a play-off with Lee.

"On 18, it was another misread. The greens are very quick and it was tough to get the perfect line all the time," said McGowan. "I played pretty nicely all day and on the back nine, I had several in between yardages and dropped a couple of shots in those and it was a bit frustrating really. I stuck to my game plan and hit the ball solid and played nicely. I just didn't quite get the breaks," said the Englishman.

The £1.25 million Johnnie Walker Classic observed a one-minute silence at 10am to mark the national day of mourning following the Victorian bushfire tragedy.





Few brands can match the style and excellence of JOHNNIE WALKER and its flagship tournament - the JOHNNIE WALKER CLASSIC.  It is an event that in 18 years has gained the reputation of being one of the best in the world, continually attracting outstanding players, huge galleries and worldwide television coverage. Uniquely, the location for the tournament changes every year as the event moves from one exotic location to another. To date, it has been held in Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore, Australia, Philippines, Taiwan, India and mainland China. The JOHNNIE WALKER CLASSIC traditionally attracts a high-calibre field of players drawing from the best international, world-ranked players thanks to its status as a tournament tri-sanctioned by the European, Asian and Australasian PGA Tours.



The JOHNNIE WALKER CLASSIC is owned by DIAGEO plc, the world's leading premium drinks business, which is the proud owner of the JOHNNIE WALKER brand. JOHNNIE WALKER is the world's number-one selling Scotch whisky, with net sales reaching £1bln in 2008. IMG, which conceived the event back in 1989 and has staged and managed each successive event since the inaugural tournament, won by Nick Faldo, at the Hong Kong Golf Club, Fanling.



JOHNNIE WALKER has a long association with golf. Golf and Scotch whisky are arguably two of Scotland's greatest gifts to the world, which may explain why the world's leading Scotch whisky brand, JOHNNIE WALKER, sponsors Asia Pacific's premier luxury golf event, the JOHNNIE WALKER CLASSIC. But there is more to this brand's long-term commitment to the game of golf.

Says the JOHNNIE WALKER Global Brand Director David Gates; "This world-class tournament is an opportunity for us to build relationships on many levels, with our consumers, with our trade, and with the players themselves.  Most of all, the tournament is a platform to promote the philosophy of personal progress that lies at the heart of the JOHNNIE WALKER brand and is reflected in its KEEP WALKING campaign.

"This philosophy is about inspiring personal progress, inspiring people to take the next step on their journey towards their goals. Professional Golfers are inspiring examples of this message as they have overcome challenges to excel at the highest level of the sport. We hope that the tournament inspires others to follow their own dreams."

JOHNNIE WALKER has been associated with golf throughout the last century with involvement in many prestigious tournaments including the Ryder Cup in the 1990s and today across all levels of the game and across all continents.

About the Asian Tour

As the official sanctioning body for professional golf in Asia, the Asian Tour leads the development of golf across the region, enhancing the careers of its members while maintaining a commitment to the integrity of the game. The Asian Tour, through its membership of the International Federation of PGA Tours, is the only recognised pan-Asian professional golf tour in Asia.  This unique feature positions the Asian Tour at the pinnacle of professional golf in Asia; providing its events with Official World Ranking status. Tour Partners include Carlsberg (Official Beer), ESPN Star Sports (Official Regional TV Broadcaster), Pin High (Official Apparel Partner), Ricoh (Official Office Solutions Provider), TIME and FORTUNE (Corporate Partner) and Srixon (Official Ball). Sentosa, Singapore's premier island resort getaway, is the Home of the Asian Tour.