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JOHANNESBURG: Rising South African star and winner of five European Tour events Branden Grace faces stiff competition when he defends the Volvo Golf Champions title as the 2013 European Tour tees off today.
There are seven Major winners in the elite 36-strong field, including South Africans Ernie Els, Retief Goosen and Louis Oosthuizen, Irishmen Darren Clarke and Padraig Harrington, Scot Paul Lawrie and Spaniard Jose Maria Olazabal.
Italians Matteo Manassero and Francesco Molinari, Swedes Peter Hanson and Henrik Stenson and Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts add to the international flavour for the tournament at Durban Country Club. The sponsors have also added spice to the championship, won by Grace after a play-off against Els and Goosen at Fancourt last year, by offering a truck and an excavator as well as the traditional car for holes in one.
Another competitor is Paul Casey of England, who preceded Grace as winner of a tournament open only to winners during the previous European Tour season or winners of more than 10 career titles on the circuit.
Seemingly ageless Miguel Angel Jimenez from Spain was also scheduled to take part, but a close-season broken leg after a skiing accident in his homeland put paid to the plans of the pony-tailed crowd favourite. Late entrant Harrington says he cannot imagine a better venue. AFP