Monday, 12 January 2004
A strong international line-up will take to the fairways of the Erinvale Golf Club at Somerset West near Cape Town this week for the South African Airways Open, the first Volvo Order of Merit tournament in 2004.

It will be the eighth time the tournament has been jointly sanctioned between The European Tour and the Sunshine Tour, and the champion's name will be engraved on an already illustrious Roll of Honour which includes the host nation's Ernie Els and Fiji's Vijay Singh, the men who, respectively, finished top of the Volvo Order of Merit and the US PGA Tour Money List in 2003.

The most recent name on the Honours Board was another South African, Trevor Immelman, who took the title 12 months ago when he birdied the first play-off hole to beat the 2002 winner Tim Clark and claim his maiden European Tour title.

It was an emotional victory for Immelman who won at the course where he grew up and learned the game and it will be another memorable occasion for the family when the 24 year old returns with the trophy.

For not only will Trevor tee up as the defending champion, the tournament will also be the first joint sanctioned event for the new Commissioner of the Sunshine Tour, Johan Immelman, Trevor's father, who took over the role in December.

Last year's tournament proved an overwhelming success for the South African contingent on show with home nation players filling the first seven places. But this year a strong international field will attempt to end that dominance.

Leading the way are 13 other winners from The European Tour in 2003, including the English duo of Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood who both won twice last season, and Colin Montgomerie, winner of the Volvo Order of Merit a record seven times in succession between 1993 and 1999.

Montgomerie showed he was in top form with victory in the Macau Open in October of 2003, a win which continued his impressive sequence of having claimed at least one tournament victory every year since 1993.

Poulter and Westwood, who finished fifth and seventh respectively on the Volvo Order of Merit, are also no strangers to success in Africa, Westwood partnering Simon Hobday to victory in the Nelson Mandela Invitational in South Africa last November, while Poulter claimed his first professional victory on the Challenge Tour in 1999 in the Ivory Coast.

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