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Friday, 19 March 2010
Dubai World Championship - Round Two  (Getty Images)
Dubai World Championship - Round Two (Getty Images)

The thrilling climax to The 2009 Race to Dubai is still fresh in the memory but, little more than a fortnight later, the 2010 edition is already upon us, beginning at the Alfred Dunhill Championship in South Africa from December 10 – 13.

Leopard Creek Golf Club in Mpumalanga marks the start line of the 2010 season, and World Number 17 Ernie Els will be hoping to get  out of the blocks quickly on home soil and continue his fine form from last season, which culminated in an 11th place finish in The Race to Dubai Rankings.

He had top ten finishes in The Open Championship and the US PGA Championship, and came closest to victory last month when he was beaten by a shot by Phil Mickelson at the WGC-HSBC Champions in China.

Els, who has a hat-trick of Alfred Dunhill Championship victories – in 1995, 1999 and 2006, is refreshed and relishing playing in the €1million event  following a short holiday with his family in Portugal after the Dubai World Championship presented by: DP World before arriving at his home in Herold’s Bay last week.

“The weather (in South Africa) is great at this time of the year, we have great beaches on our doorstep and we can catch up with family and friends - you can't beat it,” said Els. “Still, even when I have a nice chunk of time off I'm the sort of person who likes to play a bit of social golf. I always have done and probably always will.

“I'm looking forward to working on my game this week and getting ready to tee it up in the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek.”

The start date for the new rules regarding the grooves on players’ clubs is also drawing ever closer with the regulations coming into force in the New Year, but players are already switching clubs ahead of the introduction on The European Tour on January 18.

“This December there is quite a bit of extra interest and motivation as I want to work on my game with the new equipment,” said Els. “The new rules will be a big change in the game at the top level. It’s going to bring back some of the emphasis on hitting more fairways. Accuracy off the tee is going to be at more of a premium and, to be honest, that's no bad thing.

“Some people might see this rule change as a backward step, but my personal view is it could bring back some of the art of shot making and that has to be a step in the right direction.”

Four other former winners of the Alfred Dunhill Championship, which is again being co-sanctioned by The European Tour and the Sunshine Tour, will be in the field this week, namely defending champion Richard Sterne of South Africa, his compatriot Charl Schwartzel and Englishman John Bickerton.

Former Ryder Cup player Thomas Björn is also be playing, as will Edoardo Molinari, who makes his return to The European Tour International Schedule buoyed by his dominance of the Challenge Tour last season – he comfortably topped the Rankings, winning three times - and his Omega Mission Hills World Cup win with younger brother Francesco.

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1MARTIN BENAVIDES, PabloESP18-17
2SCHWARTZEL, CharlRSA18-16
3HANSEN, AndersDEN18-14
T4MAYBIN, GarethNIR18-12
T4STERNE, RichardRSA18-12
T4ROCK, RobertENG18-12
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