In the week that The 2013 Race to Dubai was launched at a course situated on the infield of the famous Greyville Racecourse in Durban, it seems fitting that David Horsey has stormed his way into contention with a three under par 62 in the first round of the Nelson Mandela Championship presented by ISPS Handa.
And with the inaugural edition of the ninth different event to be co-sanctioned between The European Tour and the South African Sunshine Tour reduced to 36 holes following the two day postponement due to a waterlogged Royal Durban, Horsey admits the week has changed from a marathon contest into a sprint for the line come Sunday teatime.
The Englishman opened up with four solid pars before a pair of birdies from the fifth – the first after striking a delightful eight iron approach to four feet while the second found the cup from 18 feet – before a third birdie on the front nine at the driveable par four ninth saw the 27 year old turn in 31 blows.
While the revised back nine – with three holes converted into par threes due to the recent flooding – proved somewhat more of a grind for the Mancunian, Horsey made a number of important par putts from around six feet as he maintained his momentum and a three under par total to lie two shots behind Clark with 18 holes to play.
“I played lovely to start with,” said Horsey, who won his second European Tour title at the Trophée Hassan II in 2011. “The opening few holes are quite tough actually; the first – even though it’s a par five – was straight back into the wind.
“I was disappointed not to birdie the reachable par four second, but then the birdies on five and six got me going so I played really tidy on that front nine and finished it off with another at the driveable ninth.
“I didn’t feel that comfortable on the back nine but still played alright; scrambled my way in and gave myself a couple of good chances without taking them but it’s still a bogey-free day so I can’t complain.
“It’s definitely a slightly different mind-set – it’s ended up a bit of a sprint rather than a marathon this week so hopefully I’ll get off to a quick start tomorrow, post a number and see what happens.”
Despite capturing victories in his previous two seasons – the first coming at the 2010 BMW International Open – the Vivendi Seve Trophy player struggled in 2012, finishing 129th in The Race to Dubai largely thanks to a period in the middle of the year when he made just two cuts in 17 appearances.
A tied 15th place at the UBS Hong Kong Open last month heralded a reversal in form for Horsey, though, impetus he hopes to take forward into 2013.
He said: “It was a disappointing year by my standards. I was just trying too hard to be honest, trying to be too perfect so I’ve just tried to free things up a bit the last few weeks. But it’s a new season and a bit of a fresh start. I played nicely in Hong Kong, started to get a bit of form back and recaptured a different mentality I suppose you could say.
“So, it was nice to finish the season on more of a high and I can try to press on now at the start of a new year.
“I’ve put together a good structure of practice and play and hopefully that will carry me forward to more victories in the future.”