ERNIE ELS will head a stellar home cast when the 100th edition of the South African Open begins in Durban today, with the world No 12 admitting he is in good shape for the tournament.
The 41-year-old, a four-time winner of the title, will line up alongside fellow South Africans Retief Goosen, Open champion Louis Oosthuizen, Tim Clark and Charl Schwartzel.
Clark and Goosen are also former champions and will compete alongside defending champion Richie Ramsay of Scotland, Richard Sterne, James Kingston and Clinton Whitelaw, who will all be aiming for success in the co-sanctioned European and Sunshine Tour event.
Yorkshire's John Parry, meanwhile, will bring the curtain down on his own impressive debut calendar year when the 24-year-old from Harrogate continues his start to the 2011 season in Durban.
Parry, who missed the cut in the season opener last week, won the Vivendi Cup in Paris in September en route to a highly-encouraging 51st-place finish on the Race to Dubai standings having graduated from the Challenge Tour the year before.
Els is the highest ranked player in the field but has endured an up and down year, with his last victory coming back in March.
He did manage to win the PGA Grand Slam of Golf – an unofficial four-man event – but struggled on his most recent appearance in the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City two weeks ago.
Nonetheless, he is aiming to end 2010 in style. He said: "My game is really good at the moment and it would be great to end the year on a high note," Els said.
"I've won four and I have finished in the top three another eight times. It's a very important tournament for me."
Goosen, who won the title in 1995 and 2005, said: "There is something indescribable about winning your national Open.
"I was 26 when I won my first title and it was one of the proudest moments of my career."
The two-time US Open champion added: "Winning two SA Open titles rates right up there with winning two majors. I hope I can emulate that success this week."
Clark, another two-time champion who won the last time the tournament was staged at Durban Country Club, is also determined to enjoy another good showing.
"It's amazing how comfortable I feel on this course," said the world No 27. "I can't have played here for years and when I get out there it all comes back to me.
"There will be pressure on me to win this week because I've won the last two played here.
"But winning The Players Championship (on the US Tour in May) has given me a bit more confidence when I get into the situation where a tournament is on the line.
""I'm no longer intimidated by that situation. I also just want to go out there and have fun."