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January 8, 2014

Per Ericsson

Mikael Eriksson

Philindila Ngcobo

Louis Oosthuizen

Tokozile Xasa


ANNA HAFSTROM KOVATS:  Warm welcome for the official press conference of the 2014 Volvo Golf Champions.  I'm Anna Hafstrom Kovats from Volvo Event Management and I see a few familiar faces, and I'm happy to be here at Durban Country Club again.
Let me introduce the top table to you.¬† From left‑to‑right, Ross Hallett, vice president, IMG Golf.¬† Philindila Ngcobo, COO, KZN Tourism.¬† Minister Tokozile Xasa, Deputy Minister of Tourism National Government.¬† Per Ericsson, president Volvo Event Management.¬† Louis Oosthuizen, defending champion and finally Mr.Michael Eriksson, tournament director for The European Tour.
So I would like to start by leading over to Per Ericsson.
PER ERICSSON:  Thanks, Anna.  Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests, and Louis, the defending champion and all media from around the world, welcome to the 2014 Volvo Golf Champions.  Actually I see some new faces so I would like to give you a short update of the tournament if that's okay.
The Volvo Golf Champions is hosted for the fourth time, this is a special tournament.  It's the Tournament of the Champions for The European Tour, which means that the only way to qualify is to win on The European Tour the previous year, or if you have won more than ten tournaments on the Tour in your career.
There's no cut, and this year we have 36 of the best players of The European Tour here at the marvelous Durban Country Club, and out of those 36, we actually have seven that have participated all four tournaments.¬† I'd like to mention two of them because they have actually won each and every year in four years' time, and that's mat Manassero, he has won four years in a row, and we have Gonzalo Fern√°ndez‑Casta√Īo, Gonzo, he was won four years in a row, as well.
I'd like to speak a bit about our client golf Pro‑Am, as well.¬† This week, the Volvo Golf Champions creates a perfect link with our client golf programme.¬† And it's just up the road at the Zimbali Golf Club where we will hold the world final for the Volvo Golf Challenge.¬† That's the client golf tournament where 74 finalists from all around the world, actually from almost 50 markets around the world, they have competed with dealers in a lot of tournaments, and I think it's 33 nationalities now playing.¬† And 18 of them on Friday will have the best golfing prize in the amateur world right now, if I may say so, and that's to play with the pros‑‑ actually, be a Member of The European Tour for 24 hours or 12 hours, compete together with the pros, because they actually make up a team, three of them, where the two pros, can win a V40 Cross Country each that's worth about 40,000.¬† However, the amateur, does not get the car.¬† But, they get win a car if they do a hole‑in‑one.
And that brings me to the big news I want to announce to you.¬†¬† At Volvo, you want to be first at things and invent things when it comes to golf, and last year we had three hole‑in‑one prizes.¬† Since we are in South Africa, we decided to go for the 'Big Five.'
So this year we have five hole‑in‑one prizes and I'll run them through for you, because it actually gives the pros 20 chances to win the hole‑in‑one prize, and we are hoping that they do this for once so that we can have‑‑‑‑ on hole No.2, the Volvo S60. The S60 is worth about $47,000.¬† On hole No. 4, have the V40 Cross Country, worth $40,000 approximately.
On hole 12, the Prince of Wales hole, the XC60, the best‑selling of Volvo cars and it's worth $55,000.¬† On the 16th hole, there's a Backhoe Loader and it's worth about $75,000.¬† On the last hole, a reachable par 4s, there is a brand new Volvo FH Series worth an amazing $200,000.¬† I really want someone to go away with that truck.¬† Right, Louis?
So finally, I'd like to that you to bring this word about Volvo around the world and South Africa, and hope you will enjoy this week and have a good week and hope that we have better weather than last year.
ANNA HAFSTROM KOVATS:  Thank you very much. I'd like to invite Philindila Ngcobo to say a few words.
PHILINDILA NGCOBO:  Thank you very much, really just to start off by saying, we are assured that this time around the weather behaves.  We know last year we had a few challenges, but we hope, you know, it will remain sunny and warm throughout the tournament.
On behalf of the province of KZN and the Department of Economic Tourism and Development, we are delighted to have this opportunity to host once again the tournament, and as you know, last year‑‑ while it would be nice to say, it would be great if we can host the tournament again this year and next year we would be very happy once more to see us hosting this tournament.¬† So I think it's a trend and I wouldn't be very surprised‑‑ (laughter).
But really, for us, it's really important that as part of the economic development strategy, tourism and golf tourism in particular, plays a huge role.  So having tournaments such as this one are really critical for us as a tourist destination because we of course appreciate the magnitude of the international exposure that we see through this tournament, and really support it, because this is a destination that should be visited and explored, both in terms of sports and in golf, in particular, but as a business and tourist destination.  So we really are excited that we have an opportunity to host you here and really look forward to a really successful tournament in the next few days and really a successful relationship into the future, so enjoy the next few days.  Thank you.
ANNA HAFSTROM KOVATS:    Like to invite Deputy Minister Tokozile Xasa to say a few words.
MINISTER TOKOZILE XASA:¬† Thank you very much, a very good afternoon to all of you.¬† This is a wonderful day, second day in a row of hosting the Volvo Golf Champions in South Africa.¬† I would like to start by saying that KwaZulu‑Natal provincial government for the vibrant and healthy relationship they have cultivated with the organizers of Volvo over the years.
For us, the return of Volvo Golf Champions for the second consecutive year to the province of the Eastern Cape in South Africa, places us in a position where we are reinforcing our position as the most sought‑after destination for golf in the world, and at the same time, that we become one of the most prestigious tournament destinations where we then feature in the international world in terms of The European Tour international scale.
So we are really proud as a country and we also wish to praise the embassy of KwaZulu‑Natal to take strides to make sure that we are able to hold this wonderful venture in our country.
This year presents an opportunity for us to once again showcase some of the fabulous golf credentials that we have in this province and in this country, and Durban Country Club has done it again with its outstanding golf course in 2013 that was the satisfaction of the golfers that were here; if all of you could just improve moving forward.
So we are here, therefore, and show you that the world's leading golfers will find this venue, which has hosted the South African Open on no fewer than 17 occasions, being a better venue.¬† And for KwaZulu‑Natal, the event has also significantly in promoting the province as an ideal location for tourism and of course for investment.¬† And therefore, as a country, we really are proud and the department of tourism is also proud and strong and believe in the capabilities of all the participants that have made this event a success.
We are also grateful to the contribution this tournament has made to us in this province and also our golfing facilities as a country.¬† There's been a steady demand for more world‑class events as a country, and therefore, the success of such an event in a country and in a province comes onto our success in holding such events as a country.
And according to a report that was released by the world tourism organization last month, in the first nine months of 2013, international tourism grew by five per cent to reach a record of 845 million worldwide and an estimated 41 million, in the same‑‑ in 2012.¬† So we are counting on the kind of events that are taking place in the country on the numbers that are contributing to the GDP of the country.¬† And the report further states that in Europe, world visitors grew by six per cent while in Africa grew by five per cent.¬† As we record this growth, we are saying for us in South Africa, the tourism numbers for 2013 grew by more than five per cent, as well.
So that is a greater stride that we have moved despite the imbalance in terms of the country's economics.  So if looking to golf, with its estimated global revenue of more than 69 billion dollars, we are looking at it, minus its multiplying effect on other industries and it is there for one of the ingredients that carries a significant resonance with the vision of turning the province into a sporting mecca which would in turn contribute to us our social economy growth.
So we thank you very much and we hope that as you are here last year, and the success of last year's tournament, and exposing our country into the world, as well as the contribution that it made into the GDP of our country would continue to entrench the corporate identity of this province as a fair tourism and investment destination and we are saying, may the best golfer win and take up all these prizes.  And we are all so proud that new prizes are announced here in South Africa and South Africa only.  Thank you.
STEVE TODD:  Warm welcome to Louis, our defending champion.  Louis, we just had a nice overview of the background of the tournament, and just wonder before we open to question, if you can give us a perspective to what this tournament means starting off the 2014 calendar year.
LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN:  Yes, it's a great tournament to start the year off.  I think everyone probably will be well rested.  I know I am.  I had a very good holiday.
But yeah, it's a great way, like I said, to start the year.  Volvo has done so much and the tournament is growing every year and to Per and your team, thank you so much for all the tournaments you put up and it's always a pleasure playing especially in South Africa.
Yeah, the tournament's good, so it should be fun.
STEVE TODD:  Just take us back 12 months ago to the victory, just share some of your memories of the victory and your thoughts going into this week as well.
LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN:¬† Yeah, last year was an up‑and‑down week as well, for me.¬† The high from Friday, getting a nice Backhoe for the farm and then Saturday, really struggling out on the golf course.¬† And then sort of putting myself together on Sunday and played really well, and you know, being behind and eventually winning by one was special to get that win on Sunday.
But yeah, this week, it's a golf 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 3‑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.
STEVE TODD:  You had a nice bit of target practise in the stadium yesterday.  That looked like a lot of fun.
LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN:  Yeah, luckily I hit it the first time because I couldn't hit it after.  You know, it makes it fun to do something different.  It takes you away from the tournament and just give your brain a bit of a rest.  It was a lot of fun, and seeing Branden and Charl, as well, it was good to interact with those guys, as well.

Q.¬† After an up‑and‑down year, at 10th in the world, how high did you think you can come back‑‑
LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN:¬† I still have a few milestones to head to, I'm still having some back issues but I'm managing it really well now.¬† I can play pain‑free and I'm still doing a lot of things to get it better.
But it's definitely still there and it's not going to go away.  It's going to take a lot of time.  But yeah, I mean, hopefully within the next month or two, I can get the game really sharp.  Like I said, it's always difficult 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 good week.
It's a great week to start and find your game, and when Thursday comes and by Friday, you know, we'll see a lot of guys really show up.

Q.¬† And almost going into the playoff last year‑‑
LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN:¬† It was a lot closer than I wanted it to be because I was standing there‑‑ looking at the scorecard and watched that chip, and when I watched it, how it missed, I don't know, but luckily it did.

Q.  You've had some very good starts here.  Twice you won  the African Open down at east London.  Are you hoping to get off to a flyer once again?
LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN:  It would be great.  So, yeah, I mean, I think being nice and fresh, start the year with a nice event in your home country.  Yeah, I wouldn't be surprised to see a South African win this week.  I feel that way because not only because it's home and special here.
Yeah, a good start would be good again, and we'll see on Thursday when I have the game face on.

Q.   You talk about managing your back properly; what are you sort of being restricted in doing?
LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN:¬† A few things that I've been working on for the last three years to do on my swing I've struggled to do it now.¬† It's a movement that just is not‑‑ it's a bit off, and once you play four or five weeks in a row, by the third week, it's really painful.
It's changing that, which is always difficult.  It doesn't really look like anything when you watch it on a video but I know the feeling of changing the swing a little bit or just a small movement, it takes time.  It really takes time to get it right.  So yeah, it's just one of those things that I need to deal with and that's fine.

Q.¬† Hitting balls on the range‑‑ also, are you on painkillers or medicine for it?
LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN:¬† No, no medicine or anything‑‑ occasionally an anti‑inflammatory.¬† I can't do a lot of hours on the range.¬† But I've always been more of, I like to play a lot and work on it on the golf course, so that helps, the walking in between.
But yeah, I mean, I just need to get through‑‑ I don't know how long it's going to take but I'm confident that I'll get it right.

Q.  Obviously we know that Volvo's involvement with golf stretches beyond the first week of the year.  Just looking ahead to the Volvo World Match Play, is there anything that you can say on where that might be staged?  Obviously George O'Grady had one or two comments about the end of last year. 
LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN:  I'm meeting with George on Saturday, but at this stage, it's just a date that I can confirm.  I will confirm something else within four or five weeks.

Q.¬† Defending champion, how do you sort of fancy your chances on the different conditions on the course this year and with Charl in the field as the highest‑ranked player, do you reckon that we have enoughfor a win by one of our countrymen?
LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN:  I reckon anyone this week can win.  It's all on how your week is going.  Yeah, the conditions last year was really different to this week.  I don't know what the forecast looks like on Saturday or Sunday, but I think it will probably be different on the greens.  It's not going to be that soft.
But yeah, it's a technical golf course‑‑ you can if you want to and you can shoot a really low number.¬† It would be great playing with Charl on Sunday in the final round, so I'm sure we will give each other a little bit of stick along the line.¬† When you're on the golf course and going against each other, it's all about getting to the top.

Q.  As Tournament Director, how challenging are you guys going to set up the course and there's different conditions from last year to why year?
MIKAEL ERIKSSON:¬†¬† The conditions last year are a lot different to this year.¬† I think it's firmer and faster from tee‑to‑green, and so I think it will be quite a bit tougher for the players.¬† We try to set it up quite tough but also fair.¬† I think it will be a bit tougher this year.¬† From the forecast, it will be quite windy tomorrow so it will be a tough start for them tomorrow.
STEVE TODD:  Many thanks for joining us and we hope that everyone has a successful week.

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