Goosen: Links a stiff test
George - Retief Goosen believes the Links at Fancourt will offer a stiff challenge to the world's top players when it hosts the €2m Volvo Golf Champions European Tour event from January 19-22.
The organisers announced on Tuesday that the tournament would be moved for safety reasons, due to political unrest in Bahrain after the inaugural event was held there in 2011.
Goosen, a two-time US Open champion, said in a video message at the launch of the event that the Links course, nestled in the heart of the Garden Route, would make life difficult, even for the global elite.
"The Links at Fancourt, in my opinion, is the toughest course in South Africa," Goosen said.
"I can only see that we're all going to have a hard time around that course if the wind picks up, and the amateurs are going to have lots of fun too."
Per Ericsson, the president of Volvo Event Management, said it had been necessary to move the event, but the organisers hoped it would return to Bahrain in future.
"We had a good event (in Bahrain), then three weeks later they had these riots," said .
"It made us think we needed to move the event around because we couldn't go back there this year.
"We would like to go back there in the future but the political situation has to change there first."
The Links, which hosted the 2003 Presidents Cup, is currently ranked as the No 1 course in the country.
"We discussed two possible areas, one of them was in South America and one of them was here," Ericsson said.
"I was in South Africa in May where we looked at seven courses, and in the end this (Fancourt) was an easy pick."
Organisers said the tournament would feature players who had won during the previous year's European Tour, along with a number of players who had each won 10 or more events on the tour.
"If you look at the names of who has won right now, we are extremely lucky to have so many top players in our event," Ericsson said.
"It's going to be the best tournament ever in South Africa in terms of the quality of players hosted."
Notable players given exemptions for the tournament include world No 1 Luke Donald, US Open champion Rory McIlroy, British Open champion Darren Clarke, Masters champion Charl Schwartzel, Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer, Adam Scott, Sergio Garcia and rising star Tom Lewis.
The special 10-event exemption also meant a number of players who had not won this season, including Colin Montgomerie, Padraig Harrington, Retief Goosen, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Paul Casey, Robert Karlsson, Jose Maria Olazabal and Vijay Singh, would all be eligible.
Five South Africans were set to tee it up - Schwartzel, Goosen, Louis Oosthuizen, Ernie Els and Thomas Aiken.
The event, organisers said, would be held over 72 holes and no cut would be made at any stage.
It would also feature the unique combination of having World Golf Challenge amateur finalists paired with the professionals on the second day of the tournament.
"We hope to confirm the field in late November," Ericsson said.