Eight of South Africa’s Champions will headline the field at the 2014 Volvo Golf Champions along with a host of Europe’s most established stars at The European Tour’s ‘Tournament of Champions,’ taking place at the Durban Country Club, South Africa, from the 9th to 12th January 2014.
With 17 nationalities currently represented on the entry list, South Africa’s global strength in golf is highlighted by their eight-strong contingent as the 2011 Masters Champion and recent winner of the Alfred Dunhill Championship Charl Schwartzel and six-time European Tour winner Richard Sterne both added their names into the mix this week. They join four time Major winner Ernie Els, defending Champion and winner of the 2010 Open Championship, Louis Oosthuizen, 2012 Champion Branden Grace along with Darren Fichardt, Dawie Ven 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 USD 4 million prize fund on offer to the limited-qualifying field at the Volvo Golf Champions could make all the difference to players looking to claim a place on the 2014 European Ryder Cup team.
All three past winners of the Volvo Golf Champions will be in the field; 2011 Champion Paul Casey, 2012 Champion Branden Grace and 2013 Champion Louis Oosthuizen. Casey 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. Trying to consolidate their positions will be two players who hit top form during the European Tour’s Final Series - Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño, winner at the BMW Masters in Shanghai and Victor Dubuisson, who triumphed at the Turkish Airlines Open.
Crowd favourite Miguel Ángel Jiménez will arrive in Durban with momentum on his side after extending his own record as The European Tour’s oldest winner by retaining his Hong Kong Open title last week a few weeks before his 50th birthday. 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, also leaves 2013 on a high note having enjoyed a significant boost to his 2014 Ryder Cup campaign winning the Nedbank Golf Challenge last week. It was his 15th European Tour victory taking him 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. They include Peter Uihlein , winner of the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year having won his maiden title at the 2013 Madeira Islands Open, Korea’s 23 year old Jin Jeong winner of the 2013 Perth International and Asia’s newest superstar, 24 year old Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who qualified with a win at the Maybank Malaysian Open will all be hoping to win this elite title in January.
Per Ericsson, President of Volvo Event Management, said: "We are going to have a great group of The European Tour’s best golfers gathered at the fantastic Durban Country Club. The event also creates the perfect link to our client golf as we also host the World Final of the Volvo World Golf Challenge at the same time, where our customers have the chance to qualify for a once in a lifetime opportunity of teaming up with the stars during the Friday of the Championship in Playing with the Pros.”
Guy Kinnings, Global Head of Golf, IMG, the tournament’s co-owners, said: “The strength of South African golf is really illustrated by the number of great South African champions who have qualified for this season opening event of 2013 Champions. They join a great field of European and International Champions with some of the Tour’s most exciting young stars and Europe’s most prolific winners. It should be a fantastic week of golf with plenty for the home crowds to cheer about.
The Championship is returning for the second consecutive year to the Province of KwaZulu-Natal and to the magnificent Durban Country Club. The Championship is being supported by the Provincial Government’s Department for Economic Develop and Tourism, who began a relationship with the Event in 2013 having understood the tourism and business benefits of hosting the Tournament in the Province.
The same week, the World Final of the Volvo World Golf Challenge – Volvo’s global tournament for customers – will be contested in Durban. The World Finalists qualified through local and national tournaments in 38 countries around the world. In what is a genuine ‘money can’t buy’ experience, the top finishers from the World Final get the chance to play together with the stars of The European Tour on the Friday of the Volvo Golf Champions, live on television, in front of a worldwide audience of millions. It’s called ‘Playing with the Pros’ – an opportunity that exists nowhere else in golf.
Only European Tour players who have won an event on the previous year’s International Schedule and current Tour Members with more than ten European Tour victories qualify for the Championship.