The 2013 European Tour season gets underway this week with the inaugural Nelson Mandela Championship sponsored by ISPS Handa. It will be played at Royal Durban Golf Club in South Africa.

The Nelson Mandela Championship, co-sanctioned by the European and Sunshine Tours, will be the first of six European Tour events contested in South Africa through the 2013 season.

This will be the third tournament on the European Tour schedule to be sponsored by ISPS (International Sports Promotion Society.) The organisation’s Chairman Dr Haruihisa Handa expressed his pride to be involved with a tournament bearing Mandela’s name.

“This is an excellent opportunity to team up with the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund and this tournament will highlight, to the world, the power of sport to do good and create a lasting legacy through the various Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund’s projects in South Africa,” he said. “We at ISPS share the great belief of Nelson Mandela that sport has the power to change the world, create a better society and break down educational and cultural barriers.”

There’s a strong home representation in this event. Branden Grace – four times a winner on the 2012 European Tour circuit will tee it up, as will George Coetzee, Thomas Aiken and Richard Sterne.

This week provides an opportunity for graduates from both the Challenge Tour and Qualifying School to make a fast start to their European Tour campaign.

Q-school winner John Parry is on the start sheet as is 2012 Challenge Tour Number 1 Espen Kofstad.

This event will be the first of, at least, 45 tournaments on the 2013 European Tour schedule.

Venue: Royal Durban Golf Club, Durban, South Africa
Date: Dec 6-9
Course stats: par 72
Purse: €1,000,000
Defending Champion: Inaugural event

TV Coverage:
Thursday 6 – Sky Sports 2 from 8.30am
Friday 7 – Sky Sports 2 from 8.30am
Saturday 8 – Sky Sports 3 from 1pm
Sunday 9 – Sky Sports 3 from 11am

Player Watch:
Thomas Aiken – Tied third in the SA Open Championship last month and a solid competitor whenever he tees it up. He’s an accurate player who finds a good percentage of fairways.

George Coetzee – Long overdue a win, the talented South African was second in the SA Open and has recorded seven further top-10 finishes in 2012.

Scott Jamieson – The Scot was tied 14th in the DP World Tour Championship and has been playing solidly over the last couple of months. He’s yet to win on the European Tour but this could be the week.

Key hole:
17th. It’s only 424 yards but it’s a dog-leg from left to right with trees and bunkering guarding the corner. The option is either to take on the carry – the longest hitters will do this – or to play conservatively from the tee and leave a long-iron into the green.

Where next?
PGA Tour –
Franklin Templeton shootout preview