Safe money on Schwartzel

If the tournament stays true to its short tradition, the safe money should be on Charl Schwartzel to become the fourth winner of the Volvo Golf Champions tournament taking place in Durban, South Africa, this week.

The local favourite seems to enjoy delivering his best at this time of the year and has been in great form on home soil where he retained his Alfred Dunhill Championship title prior to the festive break.

Schwartzel also played superbly at both the SA Open Championship and the Nedbank Golf Challenge, where he finished tied-fourth and in sixth place respectively, and it should therefore be no surprise that the world number 18 is a 10/3 favourite with the bookies for this week’s event.

The question, however, remains whether he has banished the gremlins that prevented him from capitalising at those tournaments when he had victory in his sights.

His final round at the SA Open has to be one he would love to forget, as he surrendered a comfortable lead by dropping three shots on the par-three sixth, and two more on the par-four 10th at the Glendower Golf Course in Johannesburg.

Those struggles aside, Schwartzel will be playing in a field where every single player has more than a good understanding of what it takes to win a European Tour event.

He would also have noticed that Dawie van der Walt joins the list of hugely talented competitors, and that his countryman’s maiden tour victory came just a month ago at the very same Durban Country Club where Colin Nel and Jorge Campillo carded unofficial 59s.

Then there are those who would like to break the short-lived tradition and become repeat winners of the event.

Top of the list has to be defending champion Louis Oosthuizen, who is steadily starting to regain top form after injury disrupted his game for much of last year.

The ever-impressive Branden Grace, who won the title in 2012, should also be fancying his chances, while inaugural winner Paul Casey could very well tee-off with a spring in his step.

Casey recently revealed his engagement to TV presenter Pollyanna Woodward and it would not be the first time that pre-wedding butterflies boosts an international golfer to greater heights.

As for the younger guns who have yet to complicate their golfing careers with matrimonial responsibilities, Sweden’s Morten Orum Madsen recently won the SA Open and could be one of the surprise packages alongside Matteo Manassero, who already has four tour wins at the age of 20, and Tommy Fleetwood, who at 22 also has a bright future ahead of him.

Let’s also not forget about more seasoned pros like Thomas Bjorn and Miguel Angel Jimenez, who are both coming off impressive victories.

Jimenez banked his fourth Hong Kong Open title to end off last season and now has his sights set on becoming Europe’s Ryder Cup captain, while Bjorn recently triumphed on African soil when he lifted the Nedbank Challenge at Sun City.