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Durban rain postpones start of European Tour season

By Michael Todt

DURBAN (Reuters) - The opening day of the inaugural Nelson Mandela Championship was postponed until Friday after relentless rain left the Royal Durban Golf Club waterlogged.

The first tee-shot for the opening event of the European Tour 2013 season was set for 0630 local time on Thursday, but the only ball struck was the traditional opening drive by a nominated official.

"We got a little bit more rain overnight and this morning. Nearly all the fairways are waterlogged, and we simply can't play due to that," European Tour Tournament Director Mikael Eriksson told Reuters just after making the decision.

"We made the call at about 0830, and told the players at about 0900. Those decisions are always tough, but it wasn't too hard to actually decide in the end. Everyone was in agreement that it was too wet to play golf out there."

The Durban area has experienced unseasonably high amounts of rain recently with more than a year's worth falling in the last two months.

A few dry days last week helped the course recover somewhat, but 60 milliliters of rain fell on Saturday.

However, Eriksson believes 72 holes can still be completed at the tournament, which offers a first prize of 158,500 Euros ($207,100).

"We're looking at restarting tomorrow at 0630 again, so we're hoping the weather will improve over today and that the water will sink away. We have shortened the golf course dramatically so we're hoping that will work," he said.

"Shortening the golf tournament or reducing the number of holes is not something we have decided on yet."

The forecast for Friday suggests there will be no rain, but there is a threat of thunderstorms on Saturday.

($1 = 0.7652 euros)

(Editing by Patrick Johnston)

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