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McNulty looking forward to Champions Tour

Champions Tour rookie Mark McNulty plans to use the element of surprise when he makes his debut on the lucrative over-50s circuit in the United States next month.

Zimbabwean-born McNulty, who took Irish citizenship last year, earned his Champions Tour card by winning the final qualifying with a 13-under-par total for the four rounds in November.

"I would hope that I can use my 'unknown' factor to my advantage in the United States," McNulty told Reuters.

"Americans are very isolated in the sense that America is a big country and they deal mainly in their own issues.

"A lot of people won't know me and a lot of people will have forgotten about me. It is really up to me to let them know who I am."

McNulty, who turned 50 on October 25 last year, made several U.S. PGA Tour forays in the 1980s and 1990s without ever making a breakthrough.

On the European Tour, however, he flourished. Since making his debut in 1978, he has won 16 titles and twice finished second in the season-ending order of merit.

His best major showing was a tie for second with the late Payne Stewart in the 1990 British Open at St Andrews and last year he came within a whisker of becoming the European Tour's oldest winner at the European Open in Dublin.

"On the Champions Tour, I'm looking forward to getting stuck into something completely different," said McNulty, who is bracketed with Ben Crenshaw and Brad Faxon among the best putters in the game over the last 20 years.

"I tried my luck on the PGA Tour in the 1980s and 90s but, for some unknown reason, I was not successful.

"I've always enjoyed America but I played better in Europe. I can't tell you why that is the case.

"The Champions Tour is certainly getting younger these days. The next two years are going to be vital and, to make the most of it, I will have to play well and be at the top of my game."

This week, McNulty is playing in the European Tour's Dunhill Championship in Johannesburg before heading off to the U.S. for his tilt at the competitive over-50s circuit.

"I'm still fit, as fit as anybody on the Champions Tour," he added.

"I will try to compete in some regular tour events but I will be mostly focusing on the Champions Tour over the next two years.

"If I can compete and play well, then I'll be ahead of the next wave of players, such as Greg Norman, Nick Faldo and Nick Price, who will be joining the Champions Tour in the next few years."

McNulty decided to take up Irish citizenship last November, through his Irish grandparents, after becoming disillusioned with Zimbabwe's severe economic crisis and land-grab policy under president Robert Mugabe's regime.

"Being white is not the most popular thing to be in Zimbabwe at the moment," McNulty said.

"The family, and I mean uncles, cousins, brothers, sisters and in-laws, have lost seven farms between them. There are family members who have got nothing and I don't agree with it at all.

"I know the time would come when the government won't allow me to have a Zimbabwean passport because I don't live in the country. So I have made a decision.

"It was not about easier travel. I have been able to travel well in the past and, for the last 20 years, I've travelled on it (Zimbabwe passport). It's just that I disagree with what is going on."

McNulty, who has represented the International team at two Presidents Cups against the United States, dismissed any suggestion he would use his Irish passport for future team glory.

"I am not going to use the Irish angle for any team competitions at all," he said.

"As a 50-year-old, you can compete but I leave the team competitions to the other guys. There is a time when you say, 'it is not about whether I can compete but I'm not in my prime.'

"You are only a young 50-year-old once and I'm grateful I got my (Champions Tour) card. That is why I must get stuck in and make the most of it."

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