Els launches season at home
Cape Town - For the first time in four years, Ernie Els will be a conspicuous absentee from the PGA Tour's season-opening events in Hawaii as he prepares instead to launch his 2012 campaign in South Africa.
Els failed to qualify for this week's winners-only Hyundai Tournament of Champions on the Hawaiian island of Maui and he has opted to skip the Sony Open which takes place on Oahu the following week.
A former winner of both PGA Tour events in Hawaii, the three-times major champion will make his season's debut at the European Tour's Volvo Golf Champions, to be played from January 19-22 at Fancourt in George, South Africa.
"For me, the holiday period isn't quite over, but it will soon be time to grab my clubs and head to my first tournament of the year," Els wrote on his official website on Wednesday.
"Often in the past that would involve a long journey, especially when I started the season with tournaments in Hawaii. This year it's a different story."
Els, who has not triumphed on the PGA Tour since the 2010 Arnold Palmer Invitational, will enjoy home comforts during the Volvo Golf Champions as the event is being staged close to his South African base in Herold's Bay.
"(It) is literally just down the road, so I don't even have to pack my bags for that one," he said. "I can sleep in my own bed and still enjoy some good old home cooking.
"There are maybe only two or three tournaments a year where I can do that, so it's a real treat."
Els, who has been a globe-trotting playing professional since 1992, has never lost his sense of excitement and anticipation as a fresh season approaches.
"The first tournament of the new calendar year always feels like a new beginning," the smooth-swinging 42-year-old said. "I love it.
"And even after 20-plus years as a tournament professional, I still get excited about the prospect of a year's competitive golf ahead of me."
After the Volvo Golf Champions, Els will switch his focus to the PGA Tour where he plans to compete in the January 26-29 Farmers Insurance Open in San Diego and the February 16-19 Northern Trust Open in Los Angeles.