The first tournament of 2003 sees an impressive cast assemble at Erinvale Golf Club, Cape Town, for the South African Airways Open. Seven champions from The 2002 European Tour International Schedule will tee off this week along with 2000 Volvo Order of Merit winner, Lee Westwood.
Westwood, who played a leading role in Europe's victory over the United States in The 34th Ryder Cup Matches, has already won in South Africa when he captured the Dimension Data Pro-Am during an outstanding millennium season in which he won six times.
However the Worksop golfer has yet to win one of the events jointly sanctioned between The European Tour and the Sunshine Tour in South Africa and he will be seeking to add to his 14 European Tour titles and launch the New Year in style.
Making an early start to the year is 1999 Open Champion Paul Lawrie, who added The Celtic Manor Resort Wales Open to his list of achievements in 2002. Other tournament winners from last season in the field are Alastair Forsyth, Anders Hansen, Malcolm Mackenzie, Graeme McDowell, Ian Poulter and Justin Rose.
Rose, soon to make his debut in the Masters Tournament at Augusta National, returns to the country of his birth, where in 2002 he claimed his maiden victory on The European Tour at the dunhill championship in Johannesburg.
Tim Clark defends the South African Airways Open title he won in dramatic fashion last year, when he led the Monday qualifying event, then went to Durban Country Club close to his Natal home and completed a superb victory.
Also in the field are Nick Dougherty and Paul Casey, the Englishmen who have won the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year Award for the past two seasons while Lee S James and Per Nyman, winners of the Challenge Tour Rankings and the European Tour Qualifying School Finals respectively, are in the starting line-up.
This will be the seventh time that the tournament has been jointly sanctioned between The European Tour and the Sunshine Tour and among the winners are Ernie Els, Mark McNulty and Vijay Singh.
McNulty will be seeking to emulate his 2001 victory just a matter of weeks after becoming a champion again at the age of 49 when winning the Vodacom Players Championship on the Sunshine Tour.