Ballantine's Blog: Riding on the wind

High winds have caused problems on and off the course at the 2009 Ballentine's Championship as GM's Ballentine's blogger Robin Barwick explains

Graeme McDowell Ballentine's

We were braced for windy conditions here today at the Pinx Golf Club on Jeju Island in South Korea, for the first round of the 2009 Ballantine’s Championship. On Monday the weather made its apparent intentions clear with a drenching gale that meant the airport had to close. The hill-side Pinx Golf Club is also at an altitude of 1,500 feet which means it is generally windier up here than down at sea level.

Lee Westwood’s flight from Shanghai tried to land twice on Jeju, aborting both times before heading north to the safety of Seoul. “The high point of the journey was being alive when we got here,” said Westy. “The funniest thing was when we landed in Seoul and the stewardess said, "we hope you had a nice flight’, while everybody on the plane was green.”

Henrik Stenson reckoned his delay-ridden, 60-hour journey from Orlando to Jeju was the longest trip of his life.

Although the sun shone on Tuesday and Wednesday as the players arrived belatedly, the wind persisted, and Tour meteorologist Mike McClellan warned Golf Monthly that, “This week, the greatest challenge is coming from winds of up to 30-35mph”. Once the breezes get into third gear like that, the danger of golf balls moving on the greens arises, and with it, the grim possibility of suspended play. Tour agronomists were working over-time with the Pinx greenkeepers to try to slow the greens down a notch.

So what happened today? The Ballantine’s flags around the Pinx were limp, the trees were motionless and even the media tent stopped clattering like a collapsing pylon. There was no wind. At all. The conditions for the golfers were perfect and the scores generally reflected it. Such a let down. There was hardly any snarling and gnashing of teeth as the golfers came off the summery 18th, just the mildest of frustration from some golfers that they had not taken advantage of the ideal scoring conditions by going really, really low.

The notable exception was the crest-fallen defending champion Graeme McDowell, who slumped to a terrible 76, four over par, and 11 shots off the pace in a share of 144th. If you can remember McDowell’s excellent rookie performance in the Ryder Cup seven months ago though, you will know not to count him out of the weekend yet.

Now under the cloak of darkness, those promised breezes are beginning to whip their way through Jeju, and as a native of Northern Ireland’s Portrush, McDowell’s salvation might just come riding in on the wind.

Visit the official 2009 Ballantine’s Championship websiste

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Freelance Writer

Robin has worked for Golf Monthly for over a decade.