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European Tour starts with new South African event

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 5, 2012 at 10:03 am •  Published: December 5, 2012

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Branden Grace didn't have the year Rory McIlroy did. He'll probably take a repeat of 2012 just the same.

The South African got his card back before last season, won four titles and finished sixth on the 2012 money list.

Just 11 days after McIlroy ended 2012 with five straight birdies and the World Tour Championship title to cap a dominant year, the Race to Dubai begins Thursday with the inaugural Nelson Mandela Championship, the first of six events in South Africa.

While the season-opener in Durban doesn't have the big names of Dubai, the 24-year-old Grace is eager to repeat a season with $3 million in earnings, which qualified him for all four majors in 2013.

"I got a lot of credit for what I did last year, but with that comes pressure and responsibility," Grace said. "This year I will be more focused on the majors. It's starting all over again, same as this year — getting the first win and moving from there."

Grace's breakthrough came at home at the 2012 Joburg Open. He went on to claim titles at the Volvo Golf Champions — which will again be in South Africa next month — the China Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in Scotland.

Grace and George Coetzee, also from South Africa, are the leading contenders for the new European Tour opener at Royal Durban this week among a bunch of qualifying school and Challenge Tour graduates.

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