A good start will set me up for Desert Swing

Oosthuizen the best bet among home players for Volvo Golf

Gulf News

My very short break of two weeks is almost over and I am ready to start yet another year like most people in the world - with renewed hope and optimism.

The European Tour season has already begun a week after the DP World Tour Championship, and we start the year in the Sunshine Country as well with the Volvo Golf Champions.

Only winners from last year and players who have won more than 10 tournaments on the European Tour qualify for the Volvo Golf Champions, so it is no wonder the field assembled at the Durban Country Club is of the highest class.

Branden Grace is the defending champion and what a story he has been in world golf last year. Having graduated from the Challenge Tour, the South African won four tournaments in 2012, including back-to-back wins at the start of the season in the Joburg Open and the Volvo Golf Champions.

There is no better storyline for a tournament than a home player winning, but Grace made it unforgettable for the South African fans by beating two of the finest champions and his childhood heroes - Ernie Els and Retief Goosen - in a play-off.

The South African players would be the favourites again this week, and I’d put Louis Oosthuizen on top of that list considering how well he was playing towards the end of 2012. He was slightly unlucky not to win a couple more tournaments last year.

Durban Country Club is amongst the finest golf courses in South Africa. The last time it hosted a tournament, the 2010 South African Open, Ernie won it with a four-day total of 25-under-par, which was only good enough for a one-shot win over Goosen, who was 24-under and Oosthuizen was third at -21.

It does yield a lot of birdies, but its greatest defence is when the wind starts blowing from the nearby ocean. Hopefully, things will remain calm this year as well, because I do think the spectators like to see plenty of birdies and eagles.

Having won two Volvo events before - the 2006 Volvo Masters at Valderrama and the Volvo China Open, I do feel a certain sense of comfort when I am playing an event sponsored by the Swedish carmakers. They have been fantastic supporters of the European Tour for almost 25 years and I believe this is the 78th tournament they are sponsoring on the Tour.

I am hoping for a good start to the season. That should set me up well for the Desert Swing, which really is one of my favourite spells on the European Tour calendar.

(Jeev Milkha Singh is a four-time champion on the European Tour)