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Monday December 10, 2012

Mandela tourney finally under way as icon is hospitalised

JOHANNESBURG: The Nelson Mandela Championship finally got under way on Saturday after rain delayed play for two days, even as news broke the global peace icon had been hospitalised for “medical attention”.

South African Tim Clark and Morten Orum Madsen from Denmark were tied in the lead by the end of the day, having carded five-under 60s at the Royal Durban Golf Club, reduced from the initial par 70 to par-65 over 5,594m. The rain-hit tournament was also reduced to 36 holes.

Just as the round was finishing, the presidency announced the country’s first black president, now 94, had been hospitalised for “medical attention ... consistent with his age.”

“There is no cause for alarm,” said presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj in a statement.

The inaugural ‚1mil tournament, named after the Noble Peace Laureate, was delayed two days after summer showers soaked the course this week. Organisers have reduced the championship to a two-round competition, to finish by today.

Clark, 36, shot six birdies and one bogey for his early lead before Madsen later caught up.

“It’s really a case of when we did get to play, come out, try and play well and put yourself in a position,” said Clark. “So I’m happy to have done that; we obviously can’t tell what the future holds, but I do hope we get to play some more golf.”

With the fewer rounds comes pressure to perform more quickly than usual, said the two-time SA Open champion.

“Just come out and try to make birdies,” said the 2010 The Players champion. “Normally you can sort of pace yourself, but right now you’ve got to go as low as you can and be aggressive

Rookie Madsen, fresh from qualifying school, started well but dropped a stroke on the par-five first hole.

His bunker shot was braked by South African Ruan de Smidt’s ball on the second hole, and his par there got him going again.

“That was a nice momentum thing for me and I really got me going again. I played some really solid golf from there,” the 24-year-old said.

Only one stroke behind, South Africa’s Lindani Mdwandwe and Englishman Chris Lloyd are breathing down the leaders’ necks.

Mandela spent almost three decades in prison for his fight against the apartheid government. He became South Africa’s first black president at the fall of the white regime in 1994 and is revered as an icon of peace and reconciliation around the world.

Proceeds from the golf tournament will go to his children’s fund, dedicated to bettering the lives of underprivileged youngsters. — AFP

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