SPANISH superstar Seve Ballesteros tees off in the Johnnie Walker Classic this morning at the start of a two-week Asian excursion aimed at restoring his position among golf's elite. After a disappointing second half to 1992, Ballesteros was written off as a spent force by many critics. However, a third-place finish in last week's Dubai Desert Classic was a perfect new year tonic for the five-time major champion. And Ballesteros is hoping this week's US$850,000 Classic and next week's Kent Hongkong Open will reap rich dividends - not only in financial terms but also with a view to restoring the confidence on which he thrives. ''I've worked hard on the practice range in the build-up to the season. I was pleased with how things went in Dubai and I'm looking to do well in Singapore and Hongkong,'' said Ballesteros. During his illustrious career, the Spaniard has always had the ability to raise his game for the major events. The fact that the field for the Classic - third leg of the 1993 PGA European Tour - is the strongest assembled for a tournament in Asia may well provide him with the inspiration he requires. After returning an even-par 70 in a pro-am yesterday on the re-aligned Bukit Course at the Singapore Island Country Club, Ballesteros said: ''It is a good field and I play better against a strong field on a good course. Mentally it makes every player try harder as there are so many good players.'' Heading the star-studded line-up are the world's top three ranked players - England's Nick Faldo, American Fred Couples and Welshman Ian Woosnam - as well as sixth-ranked Greg Norman of Australia. For them the tournament marks the first serious test of 1993. Couples, winner of last year's US Masters, said: ''I've only played two tournaments in two months so I need a bit of practice. I've been looking forward to coming out here and I'm going out to try to play good golf.'' Faldo devoted much of his time yesterday to ironing out a couple of minor flaws that have crept in to his game during the close season. ''I had a long lay-off and some parts of my game are rusty. I was way off last week (in Dubai), but hopefully I'm back on track,'' he said. Woosnam, meanwhile, is looking to draw inspiration from the memory of his 1987 Hongkong Open triumph. ''The grass and greens here are very similar to what they were like when I won in Hongkong,'' said the Welshman, who is hoping to avoid suffering a repeat of the pain he went through at last year's Johnnie Walker Classic in Bangkok when he required hospital treatment for heat exhaustion. ''I'll wear a hat and put on a lot of cream. Also, I feel better than last year. I knew it would be hot so I got my hair cut short before I came out. Actually, I didn't intend to have it quite so short . . . but she was pretty quick with the scissors.'' Singapore number one Samson Gimson has been handed a daunting draw in the first two rounds of the biggest tournament of his life. The twice former Hongkong Open amateur champion will play alongside Ballesteros and Australian Craig Parry in one of the most attractive groupings. Said Gimson: ''There's always extra pressure when you're playing in front of your home crowd, but it will be a great experience to play with Ballesteros and Parry. I just hope I can get off to a good start and settle my nerves early.'' The other outstanding group contains Faldo, Couples and Japanese veteran Isao Aoki. Apart from Gimson and Aoki, the leading Asian hopes are Taiwanese brothers Chen Tse-chung and Chen Tse-ming, Boonchu Ruangkit of Thailand and Filipino number one Frankie Minoza. However, many believe the favourite going into the tournament is 21-year-old Australian sensation Robert Allenby. Unlike his big-name rivals, Allenby has a couple of tournaments under his belt this year on his home circuit and has continued the superlative form that won him many admirers during 1992.