Volvo Golf Champions preview

Durban Country Club in South Africa hosts the first European Tour event of 2014. A strong field, including defending champion Louis Oosthuizen, has assembled to contest the fourth Volvo Golf Champions.

It may be the first European Tour event of 2014, but it’s actually the sixth tournament on the 2014 schedule. The winners of those first five events – Morten Orum Madsen, Thomas Bjorn, Charl Schwartzel, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Dawie Van Der Walt – will all tee it up this week.

There’s an increased prize fund for this year’s tournament, up from $2,600,000 to $4,000,000. The winner will walk away with $700,000, plus he will claim valuable world ranking and, if eligible, Ryder Cup qualification points.

The 38-strong field is comprised of winners of fully sanctioned and co-sanctioned European Tour events in 2013, then those who have compiled 10 or more European Tour victories during their career. Past winners of this tournament are also invited to play.

The event was first contested in Bahrain in 2011 when Paul Casey was victorious, in 2012 it was Branden Grace at Fancourt, then in 2013 Louis Oosthuizen took the title at Durban Country Club. He produced a fine closing round of 66 to overtake Scotland’s Scott Jamieson and win by a stroke.

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

Venue: Durban Country Club, Durban, South Africa
Date: Jan 9-12
Course stats: par 72, 6,689 yards
Purse: $4,000,000 Winner: $700,000
Defending Champion: Louis Oosthuizen (-16)

TV Coverage:
Thursday 9 – Sky Sports 4 from 11am
Friday 10 – Sky Sports 4 from 11am
Saturday 11 – Sky Sports 4 from 10.30am
Sunday 12 – Sky Sports 4 from 10.30am

Player Watch:

Charl Schwartzel
– He’ll be well rested after a Christmas break and won’t have to travel far for this event. He was playing superbly well in South Africa before Christmas – tied fourth in the South African Open then victorious in the Alfred Dunhill Championship.

Thomas Bjorn
– The winner of the Nedbank Championship last December, Bjorn will look to build on his lead in the 2014 Race to Dubai this week. He was tied ninth in this event last year so can clearly navigate his way round this track.

Jamie Donaldson
– The Welshman was on fine form towards the close of 2013, securing top-10 finishes in his last four European Tour starts. Look for him to come out of the blocks fast in 2014.

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 under 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.