Ryder Cup heroes to take on SA stars at Volvo Golf Champions

A strong Ryder Cup flavour dominates the early entrants of the Volvo Golf Champions with winning 2010 and 2012 Captains, Colin Montgomerie and José María Olazábal qualifying as current Tour Members with more than ten European Tour victories along with the 2012 Vice Captain and 13-time winner on the European Tour, Thomas Björn. All are looking to use their experience to reignite their playing careers with a return to winning form at the famous Durban Country Club.

Nicolas Colsaerts, Paul Lawrie and Francesco Molinari, who all played a vital role in the winning 2012 Ryder Cup team at Medinah, will be aiming to build on their 2012 success with an early win in 2013 but the Europeans will face a tough task in the form of a formidable home challenge. They are joined by the European Tour’s most recent winner, Peter Hanson, who held of a spirited challenge from Rory McIlroy to win in Shanghai at the weekend.

In January, six South Africans finished in the top ten of the 2012 Volvo Golf Champions and, once again, the home contingent will be very strong. The 2010 Open Champion Louis Oosthuizen has confirmed his entry having won twice in 2012 in South Africa and Malaysia. He joins South Africa’s rising star, Branden Grace, the defending champion and a four-time winner on the European Tour this year and two-time US Open winner Retief Goosen to head the list of home favourites.

Ryder Cup ‘Rookie; Colsaerts seems to have the magic touch at Volvo events having won the 2011 Volvo China Open and the 2012 Volvo World Match Play Championship. He commented, “Volvo has been very good to me with my first two wins coming at their events. It would be very neat if I could add this third Volvo tournament title to my C.V. and the most amazing way to start off the year.”

Former Ryder Cup star and past champion Paul Casey has had his fair share of injuries in recent years but hopes to start 2013 fully fit and ready to return to the top form which has seen him win 11 titles on The European Tour. Casey added, “Having hurt my shoulder last winter I was very disappointed to miss out on defending my 2011 Volvo Golf Champions title. I can’t wait for the new season to begin as I am starting to find my form again. I will keep working hard to ensure I arrive in South Africa for the 2013 season with my game in the best possible shape….and, more importantly, injury free!”

Per Ericsson, President of Volvo Event Management said, “We are still a few months out from the Volvo Golf Champions and this is a great list of players to have already been able to announce. There is so much to look forward to as we look to progress this great tournament with the support of IMG and our new partners, the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Government, the Department for Sport and Recreation and the Department for Tourism and, of course, the Durban Country Club.”

Ericsson continued, “We can also confirm that the world final of our global customer tournament, the Volvo World Golf Challenge, will take place in the same week, with the top finishers ‘Playing with the Pros’ on Friday at the Volvo Golf Champions.”

Guy Kinnings, Global Co-Managing Director, IMG remarked, “The unique qualification criteria of this tournament guarantee for a very special field. We are confident that we will have a selection of great players gathering at this beautiful venue to showcase some of the many wonderful attributes KwaZulu-Natal Province has to offer. As you will see from the early names we have announced here today, there is already a wonderful blend of experience and youth represented. Seeing Ernie and Retief go up against the might of the next generation of South African stars lead by Branden was one of the highlights of this year and reuniting the victorious Ryder Cup Captain with his successful rookie selection, Nicolas Colsaerts could be an intriguing pairing.”

George O’Grady CBE, Chief Executive of The European Tour, said: “The Volvo Golf Champions should make for a terrific start to 2013 and already, with this list of European Tour Champions, the field is shaping up well. While Volvo is our longest-serving partner and this will mark their 78th European Tour event, we are also delighted to be working with new partners, the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Government and South African Government. We also thank the Sunshine Tour for their support as we head to the Durban Country Club, another leading course in South Africa where golf, and its golfers, continue to enjoy a rich vein of form.”

The Chairman of the Durban Country Club, Richard Pemberton, added, “We are delighted to have been selected by Volvo and IMG to host the Volvo Golf Champions this year. We are already well underway in our preparations to make sure we provide the perfect stage for the European Tour’s stars to do battle.”

Michael Mabuyakhulu, MEC for Economic Development and Tourism, KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Government explained, “The interest in the Volvo Golf Champions is growing in the region and we are eagerly anticipating the arrival of so many great players. This tournament is very important to our strategy to grow our tourism offering and we are very pleased with the results so far. We are looking forward to showing off all the province of KwaZulu-Natal has to offer.”

Minister Fikile Mbalula, Minister for Sport and Recreation said, “The hosting of the second Volvo Golf Champions on South African soil, joining the five co-sanctioned events already taking place in our nation, is testimony that South Africa is definitely recognized internationally as a major golf hosting powerhouse. Our golfers have proven over the years that we are indeed globally competitive and ranks amongst the world’s best. The achievements of Branden Grace in the Race to Dubai this year has been unprecedented by any South African and he will surely be a huge attraction at next year’s event when he will be defending his title. The inclusion of our other major winners such as Retief Goosen and Louis Oosthuizen together with other world stars will further lift the stature of the Volvo Golf Champions.”

Deputy Minister of Tourism, South African Government, Tokozile Xasa, added, “All the preparations are going well for the Volvo Golf Champions. Through this tournament, we want to show the world the many wonderful facilities we have to offer visitors from around the world as the event is viewed on television by many millions around the world. We look forward to welcoming home our South African players and to hosting these other great Champions from the European Tour in January.”

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 enjoys beautiful vistas overlooking the Indian Ocean and, with its undulating fairways, lush vegetation and sand dunes is considered one of the most unique and challenging courses in the world. 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.

The KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Government has over 70 golf courses in the region which flourish in this beautiful garden province of South Africa, with its subtropical climate of lush and well-watered valleys, washed by the warm Indian Ocean.

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