Louis rides his luck

2014-01-05 14:00

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Oosthuizen looks good to defend his Volvo Championship title.

Louis Oosthuizen will be out to reset the clock when he defends his Volvo Golf Champions title at Durban Country Club, starting on Thursday.

A year ago, Oosthuizen, the 2010 British Open champion and loser in a play-off to Bubba Watson in the 2012 US Masters, shot a 66 in the final round to vault into first place.

The win elevated him to a career-high fourth on the world rankings and it seemed the young man who learnt to play on sand-putting surfaces in Albertinia would again be a strong contender in the majors.

But injury intervened and the rest of last year became a struggle for him.

By the end of the year, he eventually had to resort to nerve-blocking spinal injections in an effort to play pain-free.

He returned to action in the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City last month, and although he was not on top of his game after having to sit out without practising, scores of 69 and 67 in the second and third rounds were heartening.

He has now had the opportunity to rest and rehabilitate, and having turned 31 late last year, will be determined to once again shoot

for the top of the leaderboard.

Alongside Oosthuizen, the 2014 Volvo Golf Champions tournament will boast a strong South African contingent with Charl Schwartzel, Richard Sterne, Branden Grace, Darren Fichardt, Dawie van der Walt and Thomas Aitken also in the field.

Ernie Els had entered but was a surprise withdrawal on Thursday. While on holiday at his home in Herolds Bay near George, Els released a statement via the Sunshine Tour that he was pulling out of both the Volvo tournament and the following week’s Abu Dhabi HSBC event “for personal reasons”.

He said: “I am really sorry but I have decided to remain at home with my family and play my first event once my children return to school.”

Nedbank Golf Challenge winner Thomas Bjørn will also be in action in Durban in a line-up comprising European Tour players who have won an event in the previous year’s international schedule and players with more than 10 European Tour victories.

Other notables in the field are Englishman Paul Casey, Spaniards Miguel Ángel Jiménez and Gonzalo Fernández-Castaño, Frenchman Victor Dubuisson, Italian Matteo Manassero, American Peter Uihlein and Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat.

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