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Golf | SA

Retief Goosen © Gallo Images

Durban course to provide stern test - Goosen

Retief Goosen believes Durban Country Club, the venue for the Volvo Golf Champions event, will offer a stiffer challenge than it did for the South African Open in 2010.

On that occasion Ernie Els – on a total of 25 under par – came out on top by a stroke over the Goose, but Goosen says the course will be more difficult to overcome this time around.

“The greens are great. They are going to be tricky to putt on. They are going to be quick,” Goosen said ahead of the European Tour event, which starts on Thursday.

“So it's a lot tougher course. I think it's going to play different to what we played in the South African Open here.

"If the wind is going to blow like today, it's going to be tough scoring. I think the course is going to play at least 10 shots tougher than it did for the SA Open.”

Goosen returns to competitive golf after a five-month layoff after back surgery to repair a damaged disc.

The 14-time European Tour winner said he had few expectations for the week, after taking the lengthy injury-enforced break.

In the 2010 SA Open the course had been ravaged by severe rains and the event experienced weather delays. It was reduced to 70 holes as the fourth hole was unplayable.

The greens also drew heavy criticism from players, but this time, according to Goosen, the course was in perfect condition.

“The course is in great shape. I understand Peter Matkovich has been in here a little bit in the last few months and obviously they had a lot of rain in December.

“There's a couple of fairways here and there that's a little bit rough but the rest of the course is as good as I've seen it for a long time.”

The drier conditions would make low scoring less likely for the players, according to the two-time US Open Champion.

“The course, like I say in general, is very tough. I think around the greens it's going to be more difficult.

“The ball runs away from the green a little more than it did in the SA Open, and not having the same lines, it's going to make it more tricky to chip around the greens."

The tournament invites only event winners from the 2012 European Tour and players under the age of 50 with 10 or more victories on the tour.

One such player is Irishman Padraig Harrington – with 14 career victories on tour – and he said he relished the chance to play in the 33-man field.

“I really do like starting a tournament where there's no cut and no matter what happens this week, I'm going to get four rounds," Harrington said.

“The worst thing you can do is start the year (badly) – it's the momentum.

“Often times I avoid coming down here because you can come down to South Africa at times, and obviously it's the South African players' summer, and they are all ready to play and you're a little bit rusty.”


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