Branden Grace (Getty Images)
Branden Grace is looking to prove his incredible 2012 season wasn’t a one-off when The Nelson Mandela Championship presented by ISPS Handa begins in Durban.
The 24 year old South African picked up four European Tour titles and finished sixth on The Race to Dubai after coming through Qualifying School in 2011.
Now Grace aims to take his game to the next level by trying to challenge for one of the four Majors this year, and his preparation begins on home soil this week at Royal Durban Golf Club as The European Tour 2013 International Schedule gets underway.
“This year I will be more focused on the Majors,” said Grace. “I’ve secured my four spots for the four Majors. It’s starting all over again, same as this year - getting the first win and moving from there, because you’re playing events you’ve never played before.
“I won’t say this year, but every guy wants to win one [Major] in the future. For next year I just want to find my feet in The States. I can’t say win a Major, but try to compete in them, and to compete in the bigger events, like the WGCs to really try and get comfortable out there. Then in a couple of years I can put myself in a position to win a Major. Then again, if it’s your week it’s your week, so hopefully I can pull it through.”
While this co-sanctioned event marks the start of a new European Tour season, it is the penultimate tournament on the Sunshine Tour’s 2012 schedule.
Grace currently leads their Order of Merit, but knows he will need to perform well here and in next week’s Alfred Dunhill Championship to keep the likes of George Coetzee and Trevor Fisher Junior at bay.
“I think it’s just between me and Georgie [Coetzee],” added Grace. “I think next week will be the one decider of who’s going to take it. We’re both up for the challenge, and for the last couple of months we’ve been joking around about which is mine and which is his. It’s going to be a good couple of weeks.
“To get your name on the Order of Merit trophy is something on its own. You’ve got the likes of Charl [Schwartzel] and Ernie [Els] on there, and it’s another good thing to put your name on the record books for.
“If you ask any guy here what they’d like to do, it’s to play in the Nedbank [Golf Challenge]. The history around it – you always dream of being in the 12-man field and to go out and play there. Now I just have to play my way in there. I came up just short this year, but if I have another season like this year then playing my way into that field shouldn’t be a problem.
“Although it’s the end of the season there is still a lot up for grabs. I know in Georgie’s case he wants to win. If he can wrap one up he can get into Volvo (Golf Champions), which is a big event coming up in Durban. We’re lucky that we’ve got another event on the schedule and we’re all here to play golf.
“Whether you’re the favourite or the underdog, I think I’ve proved this year that anything can happen.”