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Golf | SA

Ernie Els © Gallo Images

Major winners seek Volvo title

Darren Clarke, Ernie Els and Padraig Harrington gave the 2012 Volvo Golf Champions a ‘major boost’ on Thursday, confirming that they, along with 11-time winner on the European Tour, Robert Karlsson, will play in the European Tour’s first-ever true ‘tournament of champions’ event to be held at The Links at Fancourt, from January 19-22.

They join a host of stars already confirmed including Major winners Retief Goosen, Paul Lawrie, Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel and European Tour stars such as Thomas Björn, Paul Casey, Nicolas Colsaerts, Miguel Ángel Jiménez, Tom Lewis, Matteo Manassero, Colin Montgomerie and Alexander Norén in competing for a €350 000 (Approx. ZAR3.5million) first prize and a prize fund of €2million (Approx. ZAR20million).

Els has won 68 professional career titles including three Majors titles and, as well as being a home favourite, is one of golf’s most popular global stars. He won the 2011 South African Open and is hoping the Volvo Golf Champions will see him kick off the year in winning form.

He explained: “Obviously, I love playing in South Africa and have won five of my European Tour titles here. I have great memories of playing at the Links at Fancourt, in professional events and when on holiday here, and am looking forward to trying to win the European Tour’s first true ‘tournament of champions’. South African golf is in great shape at the moment which is apparent by the number of South African’s in the field. Dr Hasso Plattner’s vision in creating The Links at Fancourt will provide the perfect stage to showcase the wonderful golf opportunities offered in South Africa”

Winner of a Volvo S60 in last year’s Volvo Golf Champions Amateur- Pro competition, the popular 2011 Open Champion, Clarke, secured his place at the Volvo Golf Champions by winning the Iberdrola Open in May before going on to become one of the most universally well-received winners of the Open Championship when he won at Royal St Georges in July.

He enthused, “I had an amazing year and would never have dreamt I would be teeing off at the Volvo Golf Champions as the reigning Open Champion. It feels pretty special to hear it announced on the first tee I can tell you. Since winning I have done a lot of celebrating an enjoyed every minute but over the short winter break I have been working hard to get my game in shape for the 2012 season. I am looking for a really strong start at the Volvo Golf Champions.”

Three-time Major winner, Harrington, is also looking forward to a fresh start in 2012 with a recent return to form boding well for this charismatic man from Dublin.

He added, “I took a bit of a break after a pretty gruelling 2011 schedule and, after a relaxing family holiday, I’ve been hard at work getting ready for the 2012 season. I am itching to see if all the work has paid off and looking forward to playing in this new elite event. Towards the end of last year I felt I was regaining my consistency and was feeling ever more comfortable with my game. Hopefully it will all come together at the Volvo Golf Champions as it is certainly a title I would love to add to my C.V. and would enable me to get the season off to a good start.”

Sweden’s Karlsson, winner of the 2010 Dubai World Championship and who finished 4th at the 2011 US Open, qualifies as a member of the elite group of Tour stars including Goosen, Jiménez and Montgomerie, who have more than ten career wins on the European Tour.

He explained, “I was consistent last year but I didn’t post any wins which was frustrating and it is a trend I am definitely hoping to change this year. I am delighted to have qualified for this prestigious tournament having finished fifth last year at the inaugural event.

I like the innovative format whereby Volvo invite their amateur winners to play with us on one of the tournament days and think it is a great place to start my 2012 campaign.”

The Volvo Golf Champions is an exclusive, limited field event with no halfway cut, open only to European Tour players who have won an event on the previous year’s European Tour International Schedule, the only exception being current Tour Members with more than 10 European Tour victories.

An unprecedented gathering of global golfing talent is expected to line up at the world-acclaimed Links at Fancourt, recently voted No 1 course in the country and originally designed by South African golf legend Gary Player.


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