16 January 2012
South Africa’s Branden Grace captured his maiden European Tour title and his second Sunshine Tour win in the Joburg Open on Sunday. “It’s a dream come true,” he said.
Just prior to the event, Grace had picked up the Gary Player Trophy at the Sunshine Tour’s annual awards for the leading stroke average on last season’s Tour. He continued his low-scoring form on the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club’s East and West courses.
With three excellent rounds of five-under-par 67, six-under 66, and seven-under 65, it was Grace’s tournament to lose after three rounds and a final round level-par 72 was enough to earn him victory by a single shot over Jamie Elson.
Set the course alight
The Englishman set the course alight over the final 18 holes, firing a nine-under-par 63 to rocket up the leaderboard, making it into the clubhouse on 16-under-par 271. Despite the pressure his superb effort created, Grace held firm to claim the victory.
“It’s been a long time coming and it’s nice to take my first win at home,” he told the Sunshine Tour’s website. “Hard work and consistency paid off.
“From just getting my European Tour card, to gaining exemption, to playing events I never thought I would, this year has really been unbelievable.”
‘I stuck to my game plan’
He added: “I didn’t really look at the leaderboard, but I did see that Jamie was 16-under and finished, so I knew it was up to my hands. But I stuck to my game plan and that was enough at the end.”
With Elson finishing early and with an eagle on the last hole, Grace needed to keep his game together; his round could hardly have been more solid, consisting of 16 pars, one bogey and one birdie.
The victory earned Grace the biggest cheque of his career, worth €206 050 (approximately R2.12-million), and further earned him a European Tour exemption until the end of 2013 and a place at the 2012 Volvo Golf Champions, which take place at Fancourt from 19 to 22 January. The Fancourt field features only winners of European Tour events in the past year, as well as current Tour members who have won at least 10 European Tour titles.
With the win, Grace also moved to the top of the European Tour’s Race to Dubai standings. They’re currently dominated by South Africans, with Louis Oosthuizen in second place, Joburg Open runner-up Jamie Elson in third, Tjaart van der Walt in fourth, Jaco van Zyl in fifth, and Retief Goosen in sixth.
Missed the cut
Grace succeeded Charl Schwartzel as champion. Schwartzel, ranked inside the world’s top 10, was the two-time defending champion but surprisingly missed the cut by one shot.
There was a logjam for third place with Scotland’s David Drysdale and Marc Warren joining South Africans Michiel Bothma, Trevor Fisher junior, Dawie van der Walt and Jaco van Zyl on 14-under-par 273.
George Coetzee was in a strong position after three rounds on 14-under-par, but a disappointing final round of 75 took him out of the mix and dropped him to a share of fourteenth place.
Retief Goosen enjoyed two strong rounds, opening with a 66 and 67, but those were followed by rounds of 71 and 73, which took him out of the running, and left him on 10-under 277 in 16th place.
(South African unless otherwise stated)
- Branden Grace (-17) 67, 66, 65, 72, 270
- Jamie Elson (Eng) (-16) 63, 75, 70, 63, 271
- Michiel Bothma (-14) 68, 66, 68, 71, 273
- David Drysdale (Sco) (-14) 65, 72, 69, 67 273
- Trevor Fisher jnr (-14) 68, 68, 69, 68 273
- Dawie van der Walt (-14) 70, 66, 67, 70, 273
- Jaco van Zyl (-14) 67, 69, 69, 68, 273
- Marc Warren (Sco) (-14) 66, 69, 70, 68, 273
- Jbe Kruger (-13) 67, 66, 69, 72, 274
- George Murray (Sco) 65, 69, 73, 67, 274
- Robert Rock (Eng) 65, 67, 72, 70, 274
- Bernd Wiesberger (Aut) 70, 66, 69, 69, 274
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