European Tour

Rusty Louis eyes defence

Louis Oosthuizen (AFP)
Louis Oosthuizen (AFP)

Durban - Defending champion Louis Oosthuizen admits he is feeling slightly "rusty" heading into the new year, but hopes for a flying start to the Volvo Golf Champions starting in Durban on Thursday.

The world number 34 is the fourth-highest ranked player in the 36-man field for this week's event, which will be held at the Durban Country Club.

He is among seven South Africans bidding for the R7.5 million top prize.

"It's a great tournament to start the year off," the 2010 Open Championship winner said on Wednesday.

"I think everyone is probably going to be a little bit rusty. I know I am.

"I've had a very good holiday. Playing here in South Africa is always good, so it should be fun."

The 31-year-old won the tournament at the same venue last year, when he edged out Briton Scott Jamieson by a stroke.

"It will be great [if I can get off to a flier again]. You're nice and fresh, start the year off with a nice event in your home country, and I won't be surprised if you see a South African win here this week.

"I feel that way because it's at home. A good start here will mean the world to me again. We'll see what Thursday holds."

Oosthuizen also revealed that he was still not entirely over the injury woes that troubled him last year.

"I still have some back issues, but I'm managing it quite well and I can play pain-free. But it's definitely still there and it's not going to go away. It's going to take a bit of time. Hopefully within the next month or two I can get the game really sharp."

Charl Schwartzel, who is another high-profile local in the field that is mostly made up of European Tour players, said he expected a tough contest over the next four days.

"All the guys here won last year on the tour and that's what makes this a very good event," the 29-year-old said.

"Each of them knows how to win and you can't say there's a weaker player or a stronger one. All these guys, if they get some sort of rhythm going, it's hard to beat.

"You've got to be on top of your game. You can't play average believing you're going to win, so I think everyone has a chance."

Other South Africans in the field include 2012 competition winner Branden Grace, Darren Fichardt, Dawie van der Walt, Thomas Aiken and Richard Sterne. The two men sandwiched between Oosthuizen and Schwartzel are Denmark's Thomas Bjorn and Welshman Jamie Donaldson.

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