European Tour

Els eyes more Durban delight

2013-01-09 21:06
Ernie Els (Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Durban - Reigning Open Championship winner Ernie Els is looking forward to shaking off the holiday rust on one of his favourite golf courses in the world as he tees off 2013 in the Volvo Golf Champions at Durban Country Club.

Els is back on the course where he has won two South African Opens, the most recent being in 2010. And he’s back in an event which he and Retief Goosen lost in a playoff with Branden Grace last year.

“This is one of my favourite golf courses in the world and I’ve had some success here in the past. I’ve had a good break and played some social golf, and lost a bit of money to my friends. But I feel confident about my game,” said Els.

Much of that confidence stems from his victory in the Open last year for the fourth major of his career.

“Winning the Open last year opened doors for me again, and I’ve got some really nice years ahead of me now. I’m 43 and time is running out a bit, but to know you can play in all the big events is a great thrill.”

Grace is also looking forward to starting a year in which there will be new expectation on him following his breakthrough 2012, where he won five times around the world.

“I’ve never defended a title so I’ve looked forward to this week. I think it will be difficult to match last year. That was nothing short of remarkable. But I just want to head in the right direction, and you never know what can happen. I’ve seen that in this game.”

Grace is well aware that whereas last year he was breaking new ground, this year he faces the pressure of expectation.

“I don’t know what the future holds. People are expecting me to keep achieving, and that comes with the territory. But this year will be a new learning curve for me.

“I’m looking forward to the majors and World Golf Champions events. This year I really want to compete there, whereas last year was about just playing in them, making cuts and gaining experience. You get players like Ernie saying he believes I can win a major, so that recognition is nice. And that will be a goal this year. I’ve already planned a trip with Louis Oosthuizen to Augusta National just to get his tips for the Masters.”

Oosthuizen tees off as the highest ranked player in the field, having risen to six on the world ranking.

And he’s counting on his knowledge of a course where he finished third in the 2010 South African Open to help him work off the holiday rust.

“I’ve been on my farm, and playing golf with friends and just relaxing really. I think everybody is still in a bit of a holiday mood, but when the first round tees off we’ll have our game faces on.

“I think there will be a few loose shots and a few rusty shots out there, but luckily it's a golf course where I'm familiar," said Oosthuizen.


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