Eight South African champions will headline the field at the 2014 Volvo Golf Champions alongside a host of Europe’s most established stars at The European Tour’s ‘Tournament of Champions’ at Durban Country Club from the 9 to 12 January 2014.
South Africa’s global strength in golf is highlighted by their eight-strong contingent among the 17 nationalities represented on the current entry list.
Charl Schwartzel, 2011 Masters champion and recent Alfred Dunhill Championship winner, and six-time European Tour champion Richard Sterne added their names into the mix this week and will join four-time major winner Ernie Els, defending champion and 2010 Open champion Louis Oosthuizen, as well as 2012 Volvo Golf Champion winner Branden Grace, Darren Fichardt, Dawie van der Walt and Thomas Aiken.
Schwartzel commented, “I am excited to open my season in front of my home fans and to be competing against such a strong field of champions. It is pretty impressive to have so many South Africans qualifying and with the two past winners also being South African, it is definitely a title I would love to win.”
While the South Africans golfers look to seal a winning start to the year, the Europeans have an added agenda.
In a Ryder Cup year, the $4-million prize fund on offer to the limited-qualifying field could make the difference to players looking to claim a place on the 2014 European Ryder Cup team.
Paul Casey, the 2011 Volvo Golf Champion winner, will be eager to reclaim a spot on Europe’s Ryder Cup team after returning to top form after various injuries with an impressive win at the 2013 Irish Open.
Also trying to consolidate their positions are two players who hit top form during the European Tour’s Final Series – Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño and Victor Dubuisson, respective winners of the BMW Masters in Shanghai and Turkish Airlines Open.
Crowd favourite Miguel Ángel Jiménez will arrive in Durban with momentum on his side after retaining his Hong Kong Open title a few weeks before his 50th birthday and extending his own record as The European Tour’s oldest winner.
With 13 victories since turning 40 and 20 in total, Jiménez now has his sights set on becoming Europe’s oldest Ryder Cup player next year.
Recent Nedbank Golf Challenge winner, Thomas Björn, leaves 2013 on a high note having enjoyed a significant boost to his 2014 Ryder Cup campaign with the win at Sun City.
The victory marked Bjorn’s 15th on the European Tour and lifted the Dane to the top of the 2014 Race to Dubai.
The 42-year-old Björn said of the win: “This is right up there with the best days of my career.”
Italy’s Matteo Manassero, a four-time winner on the European Tour before his twentieth birthday, will be hoping to make headway on his ambitions to make his Ryder Cup debut in 2014 while a host of golf’s other rising stars will be looking for their own fairytale week in January.
They include The European Tour’s Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year Peter Uihlein, who lifted his maiden title at the 2013 Madeira Islands Open, 23-year-old Korean Jin Jeong, winner of the 2013 Perth International and Asia’s newest superstar and Maybank Malaysian Open champion, 24-year-old Kiradech Aphibarnrat.