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 10 to 13 January 2013.
Els heads a strong South African challenge for European TourÂs Âtournament of championsÂ including defending champion, Branden Grace, two-time US Open Champion, Retief Goosen, and 2010 Open Champion Louis Oosthuizen.
One of South AfricaÂs 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, ÂI 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 IÂve 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.Â
Els, who in 1999 established a Foundation in his name to assist aspiring young golfers in South Africa, added: ÂA 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 nationÂs 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 worldÂs best players in front of his home crowd. Not so long ago he was a member of our Foundation and weÂre all so proud of what he has gone on to achieve. HeÂs an inspiration to our current crop of members.Â
Entries to the Â2 million (approx. R22.5 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 TourÂs 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.