Lowdown:
The European Tour remains in South Africa this week for the Volvo Golf Champions tournament. A strong field has assembled at Fancourt to do battle for the largest tournament purse on the African continent.
Last year, the inaugural Volvo Golf Champions was contested in Bahrain where Paul Casey took the title by a single shot from Miguel Angel Jimenez and Peter Hanson.
There will be no repeat this time out. Firstly because of the change of venue – it was decided in August of last year that the tournament should not return to Bahrain this year because of the uncertain political situation in the Arab country. The Royal Golf Club in Bahrain will, however, remain on the roster for future Volvo Champions events. Secondly, because Paul Casey dislocated his shoulder over the Christmas break, while on a snowboarding holiday.
The field is made up of players who won a tournament on last year’s European Tour schedule plus any current Tour members who have racked up 10 or more European Tour victories during their careers.
With valuable World Ranking points on offer, there’s a strong line-up including 2011 Major winners Charl Schwartzel and Darren Clarke. Other former Major champions in the field include: Ernie Els, Paul Lawrie, Louis Oosthuizen, Padraig Harrington, Reief Goosen and Jose Maria Olazabal.
Designed by Gary Player and opened in 2000, the Links at Fancourt is one of South Africa’s very best courses. In its construction, some 750,000 cubic metres of earth were moved to create the links-style layout. In 2003, the course was the venue for the Presidents Cup. That event ended in a tie after a playoff for the Cup between Ernie Els and Tiger Woods. The pair completed three holes, all halved in par, before fading light encouraged team captains Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus shake hands.

Venue:
The Links at Fancourt, George, South Africa
Date: Jan 19-22
Course stats: par 73, 7,271 yards
Purse: €2,000,000 Winner: €350,000
Defending Champion: Paul Casey (-20)

TV Coverage:
Thursday 19 – Live on Sky Sports 2 from 11am
Friday 20 – Live on Sky Sports 3 from 11am
Saturday 21 – Live on Sky Sports 3 from 11am
Sunday 22 – Live on Sky Sports 3 from 11am

Player Watch:
Robert Rock – The Englishman was ninth last week in Johannesburg after leading through 36-holes. He was eighth in last year’s season-ending Dubai World Championship and is proving himself to be one of the most consistent players on Tour. Look for him to step up another level this week.

Louis Oosthuizen – A winner on his last outing in the Africa Open, Oostuhuizen has finished in the top-10 in his last six European Tour starts hauling in almost €1 million in the process. He’ll be tough to beat this week.

Paul Lawrie – Second in the Dubai World Championship, the Scot has been working hard on his game over the winter break. He’ll be hoping his first start of 2012 might kick-start a big season.

Key holes: The finish – With an exciting par 5, par 3, par 5 conclusion to the round, this course lends itself to the possibility of big swings right at the death. Look for someone to make a blistering birdie/eagle strewn finish to tear up the leaderboard.

Where next?
PGA Tour –
Humana Challenge preview