If there’s a course for Ernie, it’s Durban Country Club

Of all places Ernie Els could begin his 2013 season, Durban Country Club would be it. The Big Easy has twice lifted the SA Open Championship trophy in Durban, and this week takes on the 33-man Volvo Champions tournament looking to go one better than his second-place finish a year ago.

“I’ve had a bit of success here in the past, and really glad to be back. We’ll check out the golf course and see what it’s like, and see what happens. It’s a great event, great field, and nice to play four rounds of golf to start the year off, so we’ll see how we go,” said Els.

Last year’s tournament came down to a playoff, in which the Open Champion took on his long-time friend Retief Goosen and newcomer Branden Grace, the latter of whom went on to claim his first of three wins at Volvo tournaments in 2012.

Els, on the other hand, shared second with Goosen. The Open Champion was not disappointed by the result, however, and on Wednesday added: “I’ll take it right now. To get into a playoff, you’ve done something right. You’ve had a successful event obviously,” he said.

But what’s not apparent from his continuously easy demeanour and answers is just how good Els can be around ‘The Grand Old Lady’. The SA Open Championship was last held in Durban in 2010, a year in which Els commanded his way to a 25-under-par total en route to winning his national open.

“It was four days, obviously a lot of rain, and I played Durban Country Club too many times to see it that benign and that easy. So I think this week will be a little different. It all depends, if the wind blows, it’s a really tough course. You see what the greens are like and see what the course is like,” he said.

It was the second SA Open victory at Durban Country Club for Els, who rose to a three-shot victory over David Frost in the 1998 championship.

For this week the bookies favour Louis Oosthuizen, who is the top-ranked player in the field, but Els’ knowledge and affinity for the course make him a serious contender for the trophy.

“I’m really fortunate to play in South Africa, I didn’t play here last year at all, and it’s great to be back and to play here. It’s nice to kick off the season at this venue,” said the Big Easy.

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