23 April 2012
South African golfer Branden Grace recorded his third European Tour win of the season in the Volvo China Open on Sunday – only the second player ever to achieve the feat in his debut season on the tour.
Swede Johan Edfors is the only other player to have won three titles in his first year on the tour after graduating from Qualifying School. Grace has achieved the feat after only 15 events of the season.
Only two players – Seve Ballesteros (1977) and Sandy Lyle (1979) – have won three European Tour titles in a single season at a younger age than the 23-year-old.
Two other South Africans have previously won three European Tour events in a season: Ernie Els (2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005) and Retief Goosen (2001).
Grace’s earlier wins came in South Africa, so Sunday’s win was his first European Tour victory outside of his home country.
Grace led by three shots heading into the final round and finished three shots ahead of defending champion Nicolas Colsaerts after both posted three-under-par 69s over the last 18 holes. That left Grace on 21-under-par 267 after previous rounds of 67, 67, and 64.
Interviewed immediately after he secured victory, he said: “I stayed really calm today. I kept hitting the ball well. I missed a couple of shots the first couple of holes, but regrouped well and made the birdies where it counts on the par fives, and just stayed with it from there.”
Commenting on a spectacular breakthrough season, he added: “I thought my first win was around the corner. To have three before May is literally unbelievable, but I’ve been playing well, so I’ve been feeling like I can win and I’ve been giving myself opportunities.”
Grace’s third win was also his most lucrative yet, worth €398 595 (approximately R4.11-million), or to put it another way, worth more than R1-million per round.
He’s up to fourth in the Race to Dubai standings, trailing only Rory McIlroy, Louis Oosthuizen and Justin Rose. Charl Schwartzel is in tenth place and Jbe Kruger 12th position, and Retief Goosen 16th spot.
South African golfers have now won six of the 15 European Tour events played this season. Louis Oosthuizen took victory in the Africa Open and Maybank Malaysian Open, Jbe Kruger won the Avantha Masters, and Grace claimed the Joburg Open and Volvo Golf Champions.
Lower down the leaderboard
Englishman Richard Finch claimed third, four shots behind Grace on 17-under 271. South African George Coetzee and Victor Dubiosson of France shared fourth on 16-under-par 272.
Coetzee matched Grace from the second round onwards, firing 67, 64, and 69. The difference, though, was Grace’s 67 in the first round; Coetzee opened with a level-par 72.
Jbe Kruger tied for 18th on 12-under-par 276 after rounds of 66, 72, 69, and 69. Keith Horne shared 44th spot on seven-under-par 281, with rounds of 72, 68, 72, and 69.
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