Grace the hot favourite in Durban
Last updated: 5th December 2012
South Africa's Branden Grace is the favourite to win the inaugural Nelson Mandela Championship, when the first event of the new European Tour season starts in Durban on Thursday.
The 24-year-old - who won four times on the European Tour last season - is also an ambassador for the event named after the famous Nobel Peace laureate and struggle icon.
"It's the first time that he has done something like this, putting his name to a golf tournament," said Grace.
"What he has done for South Africa is amazing. He has turned things round and everyone looks up to him."
The par 72 course that hosts the event is flat with no trees in sight, but has narrow fairways and rough that punishes wayward tee-shots.
"Royal Durban is a great venue. I played this course a long time ago so I'm looking forward to going back," Grace added.
After his explosive season on the European Tour Grace is the favourite to win the first event in the 2013 Race to Dubai, although compatriots Bryce Easton and George Coetzee are also candidates.
The 26-year-old Coetzee is a close friend of Grace and came second behind Sweden's Henrik Stenson in the South African Open in November.
Easton, 25, has played at the Royal Durban course since he was a teenager and beat three players in a play-off to win the Sun City Challenge in May.
International players that will compete in Durban this weekend include Englishman John Parry fresh from his victory at the European Tour Qualifying School Final Stage, and Norway's Espen Kofstad, who meanwhile wants to add to his winnings after tasting success in the Apulia San Domenico Grand Final in July.
"I'm really excited to get going and about what lies ahead this year," said the 25-year-old.
"I cannot wait to test myself against the world's best players," he continued.
Tournament organizers have confirmed that 156 pros will take part in the event when it was launched in August.
South Africa hosts six European Tour events in the 2013 season.
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