JUST 11 days after Rory McIlroy holed the final putt of the 2012 European Tour campaign, the new season begins this morning, when six Scots line up in the field for the Nelson Mandela Championship in South Africa.
An early start to the schedule has become the norm in recent seasons, the reason being that this event at Durban Country Club, as well as next week’s Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek, are co-sanctioned with the Sunshine Tour.
For David Drysdale, Scott Jamieson and Marc Warren, all of whom finished in the top 60 in last season’s Race to Dubai and therefore played in that Tour Championship won by McIlroy, there has been little time to re-charge the batteries.
They have travelled to South Africa as they want to get their new campaigns off to flying starts, as does Peter Whiteford, who is making his first appearance since surviving a nerve-wracking experience in the South African Open three weeks ago to hang on to his card.
Scotland will have 13 players holding those coveted cards for 2013, the list being headed by world No 27 Paul Lawrie and also including established Tour campaigners such as Colin Montgomerie, Stephen Gallacher, Richie Ramsay and Gary Orr.
The latter secured his 21st successive campaign by coming through the Qualifying School again in Spain last week at the age of 45, the feat also being achieved, albeit at a much younger age, by former Scottish Amateur champion Callum Macaulay.
Four seasons after he last sat at the top table, Macaulay, who has benefitted from dual backing by Team Scottish Hydro and Scottish Golf Support Limited, is champing at the bit, having decided to waste no time getting down to business.
“It’s good to be back in an atmosphere like this,” said the Kincardine man, who watched his beloved Dunfermline beat Partick Thistle in the Scottish Cup between the Tour School finishing and travelling to Durban. “There’s a lot more people around than I’ve been used to recently and I’m buzzing.”
So, too, is Clydebank’s Scott Henry, who has also benefitted enormously from SGSL, the government-backed group set up to help Scotland’s young professionals fulfil their potential.
Few have had more potential than Henry, a two-time Scottish Boys’ champion and Scottish Stroke-Play winner, over the past decade and he has graduated off the Challenge Tour, where he won the Kazakhstan Open, that circuit’s major, this year.
“It’s my first proper European Tour event, but I’m feeling pretty relaxed,” said Henry. “Competing against the best players in Europe has been the dream since I started playing golf. It’s been a long journey to get here and I’ve worked hard for it.”