Durban: The 2012 Open Champion, Ernie Els, is the latest star to confirm his entry into the season-opening Volvo Golf Champions at the Durban Country Club from January 10 to 13.
Els heads a strong South African challenge for European Tour’s “tournament of champions” including defending champion Branden Grace, two-time US Open champion Retief Goosen, and 2010 British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen.
One of South Africa’s most accomplished sportsmen, Els has 69 professional career victories to his name, including four Major Championships, two World Golf Championships and a record seven World Matchplay titles. As a former World No 1 Ernie is one of the most prolific winners of his generation and the global reach of his victories is almost without parallel. He has triumphed in tournaments all over the world and was inducted into the prestigious World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.
In 2012, Els came agonisingly close to winning the Volvo Golf Champions after a dramatic all South African play-off with Retief Goosen and Branden Grace, with the latter triumphing to win his second title of the season.
Els commented, “I am delighted to be able to include the Volvo Golf Champions in my schedule. It is the perfect way for me to start off my year playing in South Africa in front of my home fans. I am looking forward to returning to the Durban Country Club as I’ve won there before and have some great memories of the course. After coming so close at Fancourt, I would love to be able to finish one place higher in January to start off my season in the best possible way.”
Els, who in 1999 established a Foundation in his name to assist aspiring young golfers in South Africa, added: “A prestigious European Tour event like this is broadcast to millions of homes around the world, which not only showcases the fantastic golf facilities South Africa has to offer but also highlights the current strength of our nation’s golfers. Although I was disappointed to miss out on winning in 2012, it was nice to see Branden Grace make his mark as one of the world’s best players in front of his home crowd. Not so long ago he was a member of our Foundation and we’re all so proud of what he has gone on to achieve. He’s an inspiration to our current crop of members.”
Entries to the of €2 million (Dh9.7 million) tournament close at midnight on Thursday and, with one or two late entries anticipated, the 2013 Volvo Golf Champions field already contains many of European Tour’s best players including, Matteo Manassero, a three-time winner on the European Tour at only 19 years old, Miguel Ángel Jiménez who last month won the Hong Kong Open to become the oldest winner on the European Tour at aged 48, and Jeev Milkha Singh, the first Indian player to win his European Tour card.
European Ryder Cup stars, Nicolas Colsaerts, Paul Casey, Peter Hanson, Paul Lawrie, Francesco Molinari and Henrik Stenson have also confirmed their participation along with Darren Clarke, Colin Montgomerie, José María Olazábal and Thomas Björn who claim their places as current Tour Members with more than ten European Tour victories.
The Durban Country Club is a renowned Championship course with an impressive résumé having hosted the South African Open on no less than 17 occasions. It was recently voted one of the Top 100 golf courses in the World by Golf Magazine USA and is undoubtedly a shot maker’s course that players will have to think their way around during the Volvo Golf Champions.
The KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Government has over 70 golf courses in the region which flourish in this beautiful garden province of South Africa.
The Volvo World Golf Challenge is Volvo’s global tournament for customers. This year, more than 30 countries are taking part, with 68 players making it all the way to the World Final. The most successful performers amongst the World Finalists get the chance to team up with the stars of the European Tour during the Volvo Golf Champions, live on television, in front of a worldwide audience of millions.