After enjoying some family-time at home over the festive period, Louis Oosthuizen was back in competitive mood as he prepares to defend his title in the Volvo Golf Champions this week as The European Tour begins the new year in South Africa.
The former Open Champion began the 2013 calendar year with a one stroke victory at Durban Country Club, and after suffering an injury-affected run in the middle of last season, he is looking to hit the ground running again in 2014.
“It's a great tournament to start the year off,” said Oosthuizen. “I think everyone probably will be well rested. I know I am. I had a very good holiday.
“Volvo has done so much and the tournament is growing every year. We have them to thank for putting on these tournaments up and it's always a pleasure playing, especially in South Africa.
“It's always difficult in the first tournament to have your game really sharp because you do take a bit of time off with the family and friends. But it's a great week to start and to find your game. By Friday, you’ll know where your game is.”
Last year Oosthuizen opened with rounds of 68 and 64, before a third round 74 meant he slipped back. He then hit back with a final round of 66 to claim his sixth European Tour victory, finishing one stroke clear of Scotland’s Scott Jamieson.
“Last year was an up and down week for me,” he said. “I had the high on Friday, to really struggling out on the golf course on Saturday and then pulling myself together on Sunday when I played really well.
“Being behind and then eventually winning by one was special. This is a course where if you want to take it on, you can, but it's quite narrow, so I don't think you will see a lot of guys hit a lot of drivers.
“It's more three wood, target, iron golf course, and you still can make a lot of birdies. And I think you'll see the guys make quite a few birdies, which is exciting.”
Oosthuizen’s close friend and compatriot Charl Schwartzel will be one of the players trying to deny him a successful defence, with the former Masters Champion part of the 36-player field for the US$4million event.
After watching fellow South African Branden Grace claim the title in 2012 followed by Oosthuizen last year, Schwartzel is keen to add his name to the trophy this week.
“For me there's no better place to start the season than back in South Africa,” he said. “I have good memories of Durban Country Club too. I won the Freddie Tate as an amateur on this golf course and finished second in one SA Open and fourth in another.
“So I've had very good success around here and I played great towards the end of the year last year and hopefully, I can continue that sort of form. It's always a bit unpredictable coming off a break. I think for most of us, our golf clubs pretty much only come out a couple days before you start thinking about playing again. It's just nice to play in an event like this where you get recognised for what you did the year before.”