RICHARD McEvoy admits he is “chomping at the bit” to get his year underway on the European Tour after taking his longest-ever break from the game.

The 33-year-old from Leigh has not played competitively for eight weeks after spending some precious time with his young family over Christmas and missing the Tour’s programme in the Middle East in January.

The Thorpe Hall member, whose second son was born in October, says it is a hiatus which has rejuvenated his appetite for the game, and now he cannot wait to tee off today at the Joburg Open.

“It is the longest time I have ever had off and, although it was really nice to spend time with my family, it was possibly a bit too long,” said McEvoy.

“But I got a couple of days in with my coach last week before I came away and that went well, and it’s good to be back playing again.

“And I think what the break has done is rejuvenate my appetite for the game of golf.

“It’s nice to be out here with the sunshine on my back again.

“Now I’m chomping at the bit to play because I have missed the competitive side of things.”

McEvoy missed the cut at the season opener Nelson Mandela Championship in Durban in early December, but the following week picked up a healthy prize purse of 20,550 euros at one of his favourite tournaments, the Alfred Dunhill Championship in Malelane.

He starts today’s tournament 99th in the Race to Dubai rankings, where to top 115 at the end of the season automatically retain their playing privileges.

He had to rescue his European Tour card at the end of season qualifying school last year, but he is not putting any added pressure on himself this time around.

He said: “I do not set myself on course goals. I just try to get the best out of myself on a day by day basis, and hopefully that will be successful for me.”

McEvoy is in a group with Keenan Davidse and Andrew Dott on day one of the four-day Joburg Open, which will be screened on Sky Sports.

He admits it is a competition he always looks forward to.

He said: “I did not play here last year, but I’ve done well here in the past and they are two courses that I enjoy.”

McEvoy’s club-mate Matthew Southgate is also at the tournament; he starts in a group with Theunis Spangenberg and Alessandro Tadini.

Southgate flew out to the UAE last week as first reserve for the Dubai Desert Classic, but he did not get to play.

And Basildon’s Daniel Brooks, a member at Mill Hill Golf Club, will also be in action at the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club in a group with Steven Ferreira and Matthew Nixon.

Brooks flew straight to Johannesburg from India where he picked up prize money of 690 euros with a tied 55 place finish on the Challenge Tour’s Gujarat Kensville Challenge last week.