Lowdown:

The Volvo Golf Champions may be the first tournament held this calendar year, but it’s actually the third on the 2013 European Tour schedule. The Nelson Mandela Championship and Alfred Dunhill Championship, played last December, both counted towards the 2013 Race to Dubai. Scott Jamieson and Charl Schwartzel were the winners at those events. The Scot will tee it up again this week.

The 35-strong field is comprised of winners of fully sanctioned and co-sanctioned European Tour events in 2012, then those who have compiled 10 or more European Tour victories during their career. Past winners of this tournament are also invited to play but, because of the event’s youth, only Paul Casey falls into this category. The Englishman will tee it up however, and he’ll be looking to continue the return to form he showed towards the end of last season.

In 2012, Branden Grace of South Africa was the, somewhat, surprise winner of this tournament. Having won the Joburg Open the week before, he came into the Volvo Champions on good form but was given little chance against an impressive field. But he played four excellent rounds to tie with his more famous countrymen Retief Goosen and Ernie Els on 12-under-par after 72 holes. Grace then birdied the first playoff hole to take the title.

Durban Country Club
, venue for the Volvo Golf Champions, is a historic layout dating from the 1920s. Over naturally undulating ground through the bush and dunes, it’s played host to the South African Open championship on 17 occasions.

Venue
: Durban Country Club, Durban, South Africa
Date: Jan 10-13
Course stats: par 72, 6,732 yards
Purse: €2,000,000 Winner: €350,000
Defending Champion: Branden Grace (-12)

Volvo Golf Champions TV Coverage
:
Thursday 10 – Sky Sports 2 from 11am
Friday 11 – Sky Sports 3 from 11am
Saturday 12 – Sky Sports 4 from 11am
Sunday 13 – Sky Sports 4 from 11am

Player Watch:

Louis Oosthuizen – The talented South African may have played poorly in his last start of 2012, but his record prior to the Alfred Dunhill Championship was impressive – four straight top-six finishes. He was third in the South African Open when it was contested at Durban Country Club in 2011.

Ernie Els
– Winner of the South African Open here in 2011, the 2012 Open Champion relishes competing on home soil. He hasn’t played on the European Tour since the WGC HSBC Champions last November. But he was tied second in that event and it would surprise nobody if he took the title this week.

Thorbjorn Olesen – A man who’ll be looking to make a step-up in 2013. Victory here would be the perfect springboard. He had a top-10 finish in the 2011 South African Open here.

Key hole
: 3rd. A 512-yard par 5, this stunning hole requires players to hit their tee shot from the highest point on the course, overlooking the Indian Ocean, into a valley below. The drive must avoid the trees on the right but also miss the large fairway bunker that sits in the landing area on the left. Large trees protect the green’s left portion and will also punish any shot hit too long.

Skills required: Accuracy. By professional standards this is not a long course at just over 6,700 yards but the narrowness of many fairways means driver is not always the sensible play. Look for players to hit irons and utility clubs to be sure of finding the hugely undulating fairways.