Colin could turn attack into triumph in Nelson Mandela Championship

Colin Nel found a happy medium between attack and caution on Saturday in the opening round of the Nelson Mandela Championship presented by ISPS Handa.

The 29-year-old Pietermaritzburg professional carded a three-under-par first round in the rain-hit tournament at Royal Durban Golf Club to trail early leader Tim Clark by two and put himself in position to make a charge for the lead in Sunday’s final round.

“I think a good first round in any tournament is a good starting point, and with just 36 holes, a good start sets you up for a good finish,” he said.

For Nel, a win in the event which has become something of a mass sprint to the finish line could be utterly life-changing: For starters, a first prize of R1,822,750 would more than treble his career winnings in one fell swoop.

He would gain a full year’s exemption onto the European Tour – effectively two, because the exemption is valid through the season after the victory, and the Nelson Mandela Championship is the first event in the 2013 European Tour season.

And he would get into the lucrative limited field no-cut Volvo Champions set for Durban Country Club in January – and that was the tournament that confirmed that Branden Grace had truly arrived at the beginning of this year.

He’s not thinking about all of that, however. He’s pulled off six top-10 finishes this year, and a strong finish could get him another – and maybe even a victory.

He’ll have to lose some inhibitions in the final round. “Obviously, with four rounds, you have a few rounds to be able to catch up,” he said. “With two, you want to attack, but you don’t want to attack too much, because then you get lost on the first day.”

He certainly wasn’t lost in the opening round, and his 62 was a career-low score – admittedly achieved on a course reduced from its initial par 70 of 6,194 metres (6,773 yards) to a par 65 of 5,594 metres (5,133 yards).

“It was a good round, so I’ll take it,” he said. “It’s going to be a bit strange when people see it on the scorecard, or on TV. It is a little bit strange. You think you’re going to be playing a par five, but you get there and it’s a par three.”

As he pointed out, it’s the same for everyone – and he’s going to have to keep that in mind as play unfolds in a final round that could put him in position to really cash in on his golfing skills.

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