Els heads glittering Classic cast

PUBLISHED : Friday, 17 December, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 17 December, 2004, 12:00am

South African star Ernie Els will headline the cast for the 2005 Johnnie Walker Classic in Beijing in April.

World number three Els has signed up for Asia Pacific's premier golf event at the Jack Nicklaus-designed Pine Valley Golf Resort and Country Club from April 21-24.

Also confirming their participation are defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez, who won the Omega Hong Kong Open this month, and Nick Faldo.

Els, who won the tournament in 1997 and 2003, has had a spectacular year with five victories around the world, including the World Match Play Championship for a record sixth time. He finished on top of the Volvo Order of Merit, the European Money List and is third on the US Tour Money List with worldwide winnings of more than US$7 million.

Spanish Ryder Cup star Jimenez won the 2004 Classic in a thrilling final round at Bangkok's Alpine Golf and Sports Club last February, snatching victory from Denmark's Thomas Bjorn.

Faldo has won the US Masters three times, in 1987, 1990 and 1992. The popular Englishman was also the winner of the inaugural Johnnie Walker Classic at the Hong Kong Golf Club in 1990, a feat he repeated in 1993 at the Singapore Island Country Club.

The event is tri-sanctioned by the European, Asian and Australasian Tours and features prize money of US$2.4 million, an increase of 25 per cent from this year's event.It is one of the richest events in Asia and will be the biggest and richest tournament ever held in Beijing.