Pernod Ricard and Diageo's pitched battle on the fairways of world golf is hotting up.

Pernod's announcement this week that Ballantine's Scotch whisky is to sponsor Rhyder Cup 2008 player Graeme McDowell and also the Omega Mission Hills World Cup golf tournament in China is a further challenge to Diageo's presence in the sport.

Scotch whisky and golf are in the mix with bagpipes, tartan and battered chocolate bars as contributions Scotland has made to the world.

It is no surprise, then, that whisky distillers have strong 'links' with modern golf. Even non-Scotch distillers have followed this pattern, with United Spirits having tied up with every major golfing club in India long before buying Whyte & Mackay.

Pernod Ricard and Diageo have for several years aligned their Ballantine's and Johnnie Walker Scotch whisky brands with golf and its supporters. Both the annual Johnnie Walker and Ballantine's Championships are on the PGA Tour.

Pernod's move this week ups the stakes, particularly after Diageo's decision earlier this year to drop its Johnnie Walker Classic golf tournament in Asia next year. The Classic has run every year in Asia since 1990.

Instead, Diageo will sponsor golf events in Australia, South Korea and Cambodia next year and will continue to sponsor the Rhyder Cup. 

Both Johnnie Walker and Ballantine's could use some uptake to scoop their sales out of the bunker.

Johnnie Walker sales slipped by 6% in value and 11% in volume for the 12 months to the end of June, according to the latest figures available from Diageo. Ballantine's, meanwhile, fell by 15% in value and 13% in volume in Pernod's fiscal first quarter, the three months to the end of September.