Goose: Champions course scary

Retief Goosen says the Fancourt Links will offer the stiffest challenge possible at the Volvo Golf Champions in January.

Retief Goosen believes the Fancourt Links will offer the stiffest challenge possible when it hosts the €2-million Volvo Golf Champions in January.

The organisers confirmed on Tuesday that the tournament had, for reasons of safety, been moved to South Africa and away from the Arab Spring-hit Bahrain where the inaugural event was held earlier this year.

Goosen, who, as a two-time US Open champion, knows all about playing tough courses, warned in a video message which helped launch the Volvo Golf Champions in southern Africa, that the Links course, where the Presidents Cup was played on its only visit to South Africa in 2003, would make life difficult, even for the global elite.

“The Links at Fancourt, in my opinion, is the toughest course in South Africa,” Goosen said.

“I can only see that we’re all going to have a hard time around that track if the wind picks up. It could be quite scary”

“And the amateurs are going to have lots of fun too.”

Per Ericsson, the president of Volvo Event Management, said it had been necessary to move the event, but the organisers hoped it would return to Bahrain some time in future.

“We had a good event (in Bahrain), then three weeks later they had those riots,” he recalled.

“It made us think we needed to move the event around because we couldn’t go back there this year. We would like to go back there in the future, but the political situation has to change there first.”

The Links at the elite Fancourt Golfing Estate in George on the Garden Route of the Eastern Cape, was designed by Gary Player and is currently ranked as South Africa’s No 1 course.

“We discussed two possible areas, one of them was in South America and one of them was here,” Ericsson said.

“I was in South Africa in May where we looked at seven courses, and in the end Fancourt was an easy pick.

“Quality, both of the challenge the golf course will pose to the field of proven champions and of the infrastructure, was a key consideration and The Links at Fancourt is right up there with the very best in the world.”

“We also wanted a location that was suitable for the staging of the world final of the Volvo World Golf Challenge which will be staged simultaneously, with the successful formula of ‘Playing with the Pros’.

“Volvo’s customers and prospects can enjoy the sporting experience of a lifetime by playing alongside the stars of the European Tour for one day, live on worldwide TV,” continued Ericsson.

He added, “South Africa is an increasingly important market for Volvo and we believe everyone will enjoy all that South Africa and its world-renowned Garden Route will provide in January.”

The organisers explained that the field for the event would be an elite one made up of all the European Tour’s tournament champions from the previous season (2011) along with a select band of players who had each won 10 or more events on the Tour.

“If you look at the names of those who have won right now, we are extremely lucky to have so many of the World’s top players eligible for our event,” Ericsson said.

“It’s going to be the best tournament ever in South Africa in terms of the numbers of quality players.”

It will also be the richest, he omitted to say.

Notable players who have already qualified for the tournament include defending champion Paul Casey, world No 1 Luke Donald, US Open champion Rory McIlroy, British Open champion Darren Clarke, Masters champion Charl Schwartzel, World No 2 Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer, Adam Scott, Sergio Garcia and rising star Tom Lewis.

The special 10-event exemption also means that a number of high profile players who may not have won by the end of this season, including Ernie Els, Colin Montgomerie, Padraig Harrington, Miguel Angle Jimenez, Robert Karlsson, Jose Maria Olazabal, Vijay Singh and Goosen himself, would all be eligible.

The event, organisers said, would be held over 72 holes and no cut would be made at any stage.

Ericsson said the organisers hoped to name the confirmed field in late November.

Casey, in the meantime, has welcomed the opportunity to defend his title at Fancourt.

“I think that the news that the Volvo Golf Champions is heading to South Africa will be very well received by all the players,” he said. “I am really looking forward to starting my year there.

“I am trying to recover from a niggling toe injury and, while I have a few big events coming up where I will be aiming to win again, I am also looking forward to starting 2012 afresh and hoping to enjoy an injury-free year.

“Defending my title at the Volvo Golf Champions will be at the top of my New Year’s Resolution List!”

Masters champion Charl Schwartzel added: “I spend so much of my year travelling around the world that I relish the opportunity to play in front of my home fans.

“In fact, I have won four of my seven professional titles in South Africa, so the fans obviously give me a great home advantage, which hopefully will help me in January.”

Guy Kinnings, Managing Director, IMG Golf, the promoter and event co-owner with Volvo concluded, “The 2012 Volvo Golf Champions will deliver an exclusive, international line-up of proven champions to South Africa, where their countrymen’s golfing achievements speak for themselves.

“It is not before time that the European Tour has a tournament of champions and given the current health of the European Tour, we will clearly gather an enviable field at Fancourt in January.”