Els has Claret Jug in tow as Willett eyes big prizes

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The golfing year begins among stellar company for Sheffield’s Danny Willett.

The 25-year-old tees off at the Volvo Champions Trophy in Durban today looking to build on a breakthrough 2012, in which he earned his first win on the European Tour.

That victory in Germany got him into this exclusive event which is restricted to last year’s European Tour winners, past champions of the event and those with 10 or more career victories on the circuit.

Willett – who began the 2013 season with a top 20 at the Alfred Dunhill Championship in South Africa before Christmas, tees off alongside Jeev Milkha Singh.

Also in action are Ryder Cup players Paul Lawrie and Francesco Molinari, plus the past two captains Colin Montgomerie and Jose Maria Olazabal.

The last two Open champions are also in Durban – Darren Clarke and Ernie Els – with the latter taking the Claret Jug with him.

“I’ve been taking it everywhere with me – it’s just a wonderful feeling to have it with you,” said Els, whose win at Lytham has got him back into this year’s Masters.