Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Korean tensions scare off U.S. golfers

updated 1:02 PM EDT, Tue April 23, 2013
U.S. golfer Dustin Johnson played in the 2011 Ballantine's Championship in South Korea.
U.S. golfer Dustin Johnson played in the 2011 Ballantine's Championship in South Korea.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Dustin Johnson and Zach Johnson withdraw from golf tournament in South Korea
  • American golfers worried about recent tensions on the Korean Peninsula
  • Tournament sponsor insists that the event can safely go ahead this week
  • Ballantine's Championship is co-sanctioned by European and Asian tours

(CNN) -- The sponsor of a top golf tournament in South Korea insists it is safe to go ahead despite two American players pulling out due to security fears.

U.S. Ryder Cup stars Dustin Johnson and Zach Johnson withdrew from the Ballantine's Championship Monday, citing concerns over recent tensions between North and South Korea.

"They have reached this decision following perceived unrest on the Korean Peninsula and can no longer assure their commitment to this year's event," Ballantine's said in a statement on the website of the European Tour, which co-sanctions the tournament with the Asian Tour.

Now held at the Blackstone course at Icheon, 60 kilometers south of the capital Seoul, the €2,205,000 ($2.85 million) event was the first staged in South Korea in 2008 on the island of Jeju.

Golf win 'more important than world peace'
Bubba Watson on shaping shots
14 year old golfer makes Masters history
Top female golfers on male-only courses

"Ballantine's and the European Tour would like to reiterate that the tournament is going ahead as planned with a full field of European, Asian and Korean PGA Tour members," the statement added.

Read: North Korea welcomes the world's amateur golfers

"Ballantine's has been kept fully up to date on relevant issues and the European Tour has also been liaising with key decision makers, including the Foreign Office, who have not warned of any increased risk to those traveling to or within the country.

World No. 30 Zach Johnson, who won the 2007 Masters, said he did not want to take the risk following North Korea's recent threats against its neighbor and its move to test missiles and restart its nuclear program.

"It was one of those things where the women in my life really didn't feel like it was necessary for me to go," the 37-year-old from Iowa told the Des Moines Register, referring to his wife, mother and young daughter.

Read: The $74M golf course in Korea that nobody plays

"The posture and rhetoric that is taking place right now makes it not worth it. And it probably is just posture and rhetoric. However, I don't want to take the chance."

World No. 19 Dustin Johnson, who played at the Korean event in 2011, had similar concerns.

"I feel bad for the tournament," said the 28-year-old, whose partner is Paulina Gretzky, the model daughter of ice hockey legend Wayne Gretzky. "They were gracious and understanding. Hopefully it will work out in the future."

The tournament, which starts on Thursday, will feature three former major champions in South Africa's world No. 6 Louis Oosthuizen, South Korean veteran Y.E. Yang and Britain's Paul Lawrie.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 10:47 AM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
If golf has a reputation for being a bit stuffy, then the Bryan brothers and their trick shots are a much-needed blast of fresh air.
updated 8:18 AM EST, Thu December 11, 2014
Not many people make the leap from teenage market trader to golf pro and fashion entrepreneur, but that's just what Ian Poulter has done.
updated 6:29 AM EST, Wed November 12, 2014
"Sleep, as far as mental and physical recovery goes, has never been more important ..." says sport sleep coach Nick Littlehales.
updated 5:24 AM EST, Tue November 4, 2014
Joe Miller is devouring his second steak of the day and the clock has barely nudged 2pm. You need lots of fuel to smash a drive 474 yards.
updated 10:49 AM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
There have been many dark days for Oliver Wilson, but golf's unluckiest loser is finally riding an upward swing of his career roller coaster.
updated 12:48 PM EDT, Tue October 7, 2014
They dress like it's the 1930s and they swing antique equipment that eschews cutting-edge technology -- this is hickory golf.
updated 12:09 PM EDT, Mon September 15, 2014
CNN's Living Golf focuses on women's golf, charting the growth of the sport from royal pastime to multi-million dollar machine.
updated 4:46 AM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
"I don't know how to paint happy," says golf's poster girl Michelle Wie. "I think it releases a lot of the darker feelings in me."
updated 8:13 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
Phil Mickelson of the United States talks during a press conference after the United States were defeated by Europe after the Singles Matches of the 2014 Ryder Cup on the PGA Centenary course at the Gleneagles Hotel on September 28, 2014 in Auchterarder, Scotland.
If you're a U.S. golf fan, or Tom Watson, look away now.
updated 7:18 PM EDT, Thu September 25, 2014
A ban on uploading social media pictures from the course at Gleneagles was dropped for the Ryder Cup.
updated 6:52 AM EDT, Wed September 24, 2014
A spot of shopping, the odd spa day and some serious flag waving. Welcome to the life of a Ryder Cup WAG.
updated 9:01 AM EDT, Tue September 23, 2014
Tom Watson has learned plenty in the 21 years since he was last U.S. Ryder Cup captain, but social media is proving to be problematic.
updated 8:43 AM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
Patriotism will reach fever pitch when the USA and Europe collide in golf's Ryder Cup ... and it looks like Rickie Fowler has let it go to his head.
updated 9:42 AM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
Pressure is inescapable in the cauldron of Ryder Cup competition -- pressure and ping pong.
updated 7:50 AM EDT, Tue September 23, 2014
Millions of golf fans were watching on television with great anticipation. All Martin Kaymer could think about was getting his phone out.
ADVERTISEMENT