Ernie Els will head a stellar home cast when the 100th edition of the South African Open begins on Thursday, with the world No. 12 admitting he is in good shape for the tournament.
The 41-year-old, a four-time winner of the title, will line up alongside fellow South Africans Retief Goosen, British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen, Tim Clark and Charl Schwartzel.
2010 SOUTH AFRICAN OPEN
First played in 1893, the South African Open is the second-oldest national championship in golf, with only the British Open being older.
Clark and Goosen are also former champions and will be joined by defending champion Richie Ramsay of Scotland, Richard Sterne, James Kingston and Clinton Whitelaw, who will all be aiming for success in the event, which is sanctioned by both the European Tour and southern Africa’s Sunshine Tour.
Els is the highest ranked player in the field, but has endured an up-and-down year, with his last victory coming back in March.
He did manage to win the PGA Grand Slam of Golf in October, but struggled in his most recent appearance in the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City two weeks ago. Nevertheless, he is aiming to end 2010 in style.
"My game is really good at the moment and it would be great to end the year on a high note with victory in our national championship, especially since it's the 100th and a very special one," Els said. "I've won four and I have finished in the top three another eight times. It's a very important tournament for me."
Goosen, who won the title in 1995 and 2005, said: "There is something indescribable about winning your national Open. I was 26 years old when I won my first title and it was one of the proudest moments of my career.
"Winning two SA Open titles rates right up there with winning two majors,” said Goosen, a two-time U.S. Open champion. “I hope I can emulate that success this week."
Clark, another two-time champion who won the last time the tournament was staged at Durban Country Club, is also determined to enjoy another good showing.
"It's amazing how comfortable I feel on this course," Clark said. "I can not have played here for years and when I get out there it all comes back to me. There will be pressure on me to win this week because I've won the last two played here.
"But winning The Players Championship (on the PGA Tour in May) has given me a bit more confidence when I get into the situation where a tournament is on the line,” he added. "I'm no longer intimidated by that situation. I also just want to go out there and have fun. That's the approach I had in 2002 and 2005."