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Golf | SA

Thomas Aiken © Gallo Images

Thomas targets Presidents Cup

A 54th place-finish in the Race to Dubai and over €560,000 earned in prize money represents a more than satisfactory 2012 season on the European Tour for Thomas Aiken. He missed just five cuts all year, and underlined his consistency with three top-10 finishes, including a tied-seventh finish at the Open Championship.

Yet something that he tasted in 2011 eluded him in 2012 – a victory. As a result, he comes into this week’s Nelson Mandela Championship at Royal Durban Golf Club with a new set of goals for the 2013 season.

“Winning. That’s got to be the most important thing for me this season,” Aiken said with a smile to supersport.com. “I really want to start winning more golf tournaments again. One of my biggest career goals is to make a Presidents Cup team too, and obviously in 2013 I’ve got the opportunity to do that. So a couple of wins are probably what I’ll need to get there.”

At 35th in the current Presidents Cup standings to qualify for Nick Price’s team of Internationals, some would have Aiken as a rank outsider. The top-10 on the points table will gain automatic entry, while the Zimbabwean stalwart will have the opportunity to add two captain’s picks to complete his team of 12. However, Aiken has the best part of 12 months to earn his right to play in the showpiece at Muifield Village, and for him it all starts this week.

“It’s an important week for all of us. It’s the second last week of the Sunshine Tour and the start of the new season in Europe. You’ve also got world rankings points up for grabs for the end of the year and Presidents Cup points, so it means a lot for players like myself,” the 29 year-old said.

After two days of immense frustration, Aiken is finally able to kick-start his 2013 European Tour campaign from 12:30 today in what is likely to become a 36-hole event on a course that has been converted into a par-65 layout. But, according to man from Johannesburg, very little changes in his strategy when looking ahead to the weekend.

“Not much really changes for me to be honest. You’ve still got to get the ball in the hole and make a score – it’s just two less rounds,” Aiken said.

“It might be a little different because everyone’s on the same score with two rounds to go. But the first round will be much the same, and then, depending on how that goes, you can find yourself in a good position for a final-round finish. The only thing with so little time in the tournament is to make sure you don’t put yourself out of contention early,” he added.

A stiff breeze and higher clouds have yielded the Durban locals a chance to see stars like Aiken in action this weekend, and with an improving weather forecast, the possibility of seeing a completed tournament is looking all the more likely. A lot can change between now and next October (when the Presidents Cup takes place), but if Aiken wants to be on the plane to Ohio, then victory and a cheque for €158,500 in Durban this week would surely go a long way to helping his cause.


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