Well, how’s your dry, dieting January going? The first month of the new year is apparently an enriching and energising four-week period of abstinence and bodily renewal during which you deny yourself some of your few remaining pleasures while existing on a daily intake of birdseed, twigs and kale smoothies.

A colleague of mine, who used to smoke between mouthfuls during a meal but has at least reduced those sooks to between courses as part of a rigorous health kick, suggested that a good way to cleanse the system and usher in 2018 with sprightly vigour was to try colonic irrigation but I responded by saying that I wasn’t that keen on gardening.

Now, there’s an antiquated, cornball gag that’s not been heard since Capability Brown tried to lighten the mood when planting the herbaceous perennials at Blenheim Palace.

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On the European Tour, meanwhile, January is a time to get cracking again with hostilities resuming this week in the BMW South African Open. Following four events prior to Christmas, some of the new recruits to the top table will continue their fight to gain a foothold on the circuit as they chase the pots of gold in the Rainbow Nation.

Of course, attempting to establish a solid beachhead in the treacherous battlegrounds of the European scene is as perilous as mounting an amphibious landing under heavy mortar fire.

For those who earned their tour cards at the qualifying school final – Scotland’s Connor Syme was one of them but he is not playing this week – the challenge of keeping that ticket continues to be increasingly daunting.

At the conclusion of the 2017 season, only three graduates from the previous year’s qualifying school, namely Eddie Pepperell, Edoardo Molinari and Ashley Chesters, managed to keep their playing privileges. That meagre total of survivors, from an initial wave of 30 who came through the q-school scramble, was a record low.

The prospects of those coming on to the tour via that route have not improved by the onset of the Rolex Series, a lucrative programme of eight largely restricted entry events worth $7 million or more which have added financial clout to the tour but has made the gap between the haves and the have-nots even wider.

Nathan Kimsey, for instance, won the qualifying school in 2016 and got 27 events during the 2017 season. That’s a decent kick at the ba’ and, in the cut-throat world of professional sport with its Darwinian concept of survival of the fittest, many will say he had ample opportunities.

But Kimsey finished down in 147th spot on the money list and lost his card. His best result was a handy share of ninth in Qatar which earned him around £43,900. However, that same finish in, for example, the BMW PGA Championship, a Rolex Series showpiece which Kimsey never got in to, was worth a sizeable £126,700 in comparison. In fact, just nine of the 30 q-school graduates played in a Rolex event during the 2017 campaign.

The European Tour top brass did foresee a problem for those playing for lesser money and made 10 cards available through an Access List comprising money from events that excluded those with restricted entry, like these Rolex bonanzas.

Only one q-school man, the aforementioned Chesters, kept his card that way, though, and that was by the skin of his teeth in 110th place. As the last man in, Chesters still had to earn some £320,000 just to keep his full rights.

That’s an eye-opening figure the likes of Syme and fellow rookie Bradley Neil, who came up off the Challenge Tour, will be looking at. Getting on tour is one thing but staying there is quite another as those on the lower rungs are faced with the kind of fearsome climb that a veteran Sherpa would shy away from.

The answer to the problems faced by those coming on to the tour is harshly simple: play better. “Golf is not, and never has been, a fair game,” said the great Jack Nicklaus.

For the q-school graduates, though, who along with over 800 original entrants stump up the £1800 fee to go through the process, getting a fair crack at the whip once they get on the tour is becoming increasingly difficult.