Royal Durban might give locals the edge
Andrew Curlewis has one victory and 16 other top-10 finishes on the Sunshine Tour, and if ever he has a chance of producing another, it’s at this week’s Nelson Mandela Championship presented by ISPS Handa.
That’s because the 29-year-old Curlewis first played the Royal Durban Golf Club layout when he was just 13, and the Margate professional who won the Natal Amateur stroke play and match play titles before he joined the paid ranks in 2004 knows the course as well as anyone.
“Going back to junior days, the first time I played the course was back in 1996,” said Curlewis. “There was a tournament here almost every year, and I’ve played a lot of social games with friends over the last little while.”
Curlewis is one of 156 players who will tee it up from Thursday in the second last event of the 2012 Sunshine Tour, and he will be looking for a good finish to boost his current 60th place on the Order of Merit.
The €1-million tournament, which is co-sanctioned with the European Tour, is sponsored by the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund – a charity established by South Africa’s founding democratic president as an expression of his commitment to the cause of children.
Presenting sponsor ISPS Handa, another charitable cause which aims to promote blind and disabled golf around the world, also sponsored the ISPS Handa South African Match Play Championship, the Wales Open and Perth International last European season, as well as several European Senior Tour events in recent seasons.
The course is very wet after heavy recent rains – and there is more rain forecast for the remainder of the week – which will make the challenges it poses even tougher.
“In general, it’s a long course, and it will be especially so this week with it being so wet,” said Curlewis. “It’s going to be a long, straight-hitters’ course this week.
“There are a few of the par-fours which are short enough to be tempting, but they are risk-and-reward, so you can make birdies on them, but you could just as easily make bogey,” he added.
The 442-metre (483-yard) par-four 18th could be a decisive one on Sunday: “It’s quite an intimidating tee shot,” said Curlewis. “You can’t see much of the fairway, and the second, going for the green, there’s not much space. It’s out of bounds all the way along the right and left. So it’s going to be a good finish, if it’s all square or there’s only one shot in it.”
And while the Sunshne Tour’s schedule is winding down, just 11 days after world No 1 Rory McIlroy signed off a remarkable 2012 season with victory in the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai, the battle to succeed him as European No 1 begins, with the first of six tournaments on the 2013 European Tour International Schedule on South African soil.
Launched with this new event, the 2013 Race to Dubai features a minimum of 45 tournaments around the world, with the 12-month golfing odyssey culminating in the new four-tournament swing known as ‘The Final Series’, which ends with the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai from November 14-17, 2013.
And Andrew Curlewis is hoping that familiarity will help him take a big step on that road.