From Wednesday morning 72 Sunshine Tour professionals will vie for the Investec Royal Swazi Open, but reigning champion James Kingston is back to defend his title and has no intention of being dethroned.
“It’s always nice to come back to any tournament and defend, and I think you get more scoring opportunities here than most other courses, which makes it exciting. History tells us what we need to do, but you’ve got to create as many opportunities as possible,” he said.
Unlike regular Sunshine Tour events, the Investec Royal Swazi Open uses a modified stableford scoring system that rewards attacking golf. Eight points are awarded for an albatross, five for an eagle and two for a birdie. While par is worth zero points, one point is deducted for a bogey and three points are deducted for a double-bogey or worse.
A qualifying round that offered up 15 spots was held at Royal Swazi Sun Country Club on Tuesday and Ross Wellington led the day with a round that included five birdies and an eagle.
Wellington racked up a 14 point total to lead the pre-qualifier and was followed into the tournament by Anthony Michael on 13 points. The last players in were Alan Michell, Tertius van den Berg, CJ du Plessis and Prinavin Nelson, all of whom shared 12th place on eight points.
With the field complete the attention has turned to the main event, and Kingston will draw on his memories of victory in 2013 as he looks to defend the title.
Last year the two-time European Tour winner birdied the 17th during the final round and went on to win in a playoff with Ruan de Smidt. During the week he made 21 birdies and two eagles to reach a 45 point total.
Currently in his 26th year on tour, Kingston fully appreciates the task that lies ahead.
“It’s always nice to come back to Swaziland, one of those places I’ve been touring to for over 20 years. I’ve always enjoyed the course, because there is a balance between conservative and aggressive play,” he said.
The 48-year-old won the Swazi Open in 2002 and again in 2013. With the Investec logo emblazoned on his shirt Kingston could easily crack a Swazi triple.
“It’s nice to come back to a tournament with a bit of history, to return to an event that you know. It would be good to defend successfully and to win this tournament for a third time,” he said.