Australian Open defending champion Tim Clark and two of Australian golf’s hottest properties Marc Leishman and Michael Sim have all accepted invitations to join the star-studded field at the 2009 Australian Open to be played at the NSW Golf Club from December 3-6. This year s championship field shapes as one of the best in recent years with world number 37, Clark, returning to defend the title he won in a dramatic play-off last year. Golf Australia CEO Stephen Pitt said he looked forward to seeing the defending champion and Australian young guns in Sydney. We re pleased that Tim is able to join us to defend his title after such an exciting finale in 2008, Pitt said. Together with Michael Sim and Marc Leishman- who have both had outstanding seasons in the United States- this has the making of a classic championship at New South Wales Golf Club. South African born Clark has had 35 Top 10 finishes on the US PGA Tour. He will play in his third Presidents Cup, under the captaincy of fellow Australian Open champion Greg Norman this week, alongside fellow Australian Open starters Adam Scott and Geoff Ogilvy. Leishman, the 25-year-old from Warrnambool, is on track to be the Rookie of the Year in his debut season on the PGA Tour, having already won close to $US2 million in prize money, and being the only rookie to qualify for the field of 30 players for the invitation-only TOUR Championship presented by Coca-Cola last week. The highlight of Leishman s 2009 season was playing alongside Tiger Woods in the final round of the BMW Championship in Chicago where he finished tied for second. Joining Leishman and Clark at the Australian Open will be 25-year-old West Australian Michael Sim who many pundits consider has had the best year of any player in the 20-year history of the Nationwide Tour. This season, Sim has earned $527,079 – more than $275,000 ahead of the previous best performance on the Nationwide Tour by Stewart Cink. Sim, who leads the Nationwide Tour this year in putts-per-round and scrambling, has earned an automatic promotion to the PGA Tour for the 2009 Fall Series events and for the full 2010 season after his remarkable three-win season this year. While the playing depth of this year s championship continues to grow, so does the corporate support with award winning Dubai based international airline, Emirates, coming on board as a major sponsor for the first time. Emirates has become the Official Airline Partner of the Australian Open, continuing the airline s support for Australian golf and Australian golfers. Emirates now sponsor 13 tournaments across the six continents it flies to non-stop from Dubai. Emirates extends its support of golf to passengers by allowing them to check in a set of clubs free of charge – in addition to Emirates already-increased baggage allowance. Emirates new baggage policy includes an allowance of 50 kg for First Class, 40 kg for Business and 30 kg for passengers travelling in Emirates award-winning Economy Class. Confirmed starters at the 2009 Australian Open now include: Geoff Ogilvy, Greg Norman, Adam Scott, Marc Leishman, Michael Sim, Rod Pampling, Mathew Goggin, Stuart Appleby, Aaron Baddeley, Tim Clark, John Senden and Greg Chalmers.