Branden Grace didn’t mince his words ahead of the Venetian Macao Open – he’s eyeing a third victory this season.
‘I’ve ticked off so many of my goals. I’m trying to sneak into the world’s top-10 and stay there which has been a big goal all year,’ he said.
‘It’s been a great season, which I’ve been consistent to be in the top-15 which shows the consistency. I want to take it week by week, try to win this week and carry on and take the momentum for the weeks coming up.’
The world number 14 is the highest-ranked golfer in the field at Macau Golf & Country Club this week, but won’t rest on his laurels. He follows in the footsteps of Ernie Els, who played the event for the last two years.
‘Ernie has been here many times and he says it’s a fantastic place and the tournament is the way it should be run. Being top-15 in the world, I hope it would be an advantage. Hopefully I’ll be thereabouts at the end of the week,’ said Grace.
Grace burst onto the scene with five European Tour victories in his 2012 rookie year, and has since been a regular contender in the majors, most recently sharing fourth place at the PGA Championship.
The Fancourt Foundation graduate spends most of his time in the USA, having earned his card for the PGA Tour this season. He took no time in settling to the biggest stage in the world and won the RBC Heritage tournament in April.
This week he’s a firm favourite to lift the trophy at the end of the week.
‘I’m very excited to be here’ he said. ‘This is my first time here and I’m sure this week will be fun on and off the golf course. I’ve been to Vegas, but it’s nice to see a place like this outside the States where you won’t expect this being a small island. It’s phenomenal. I’ve not gotten lost in a hotel before and I got lost for 15 minutes coming from the hotel lobby!’
Also in the field is Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke, who was ready to play golf again after Team Europe’s loss at Hazeltine National Golf Club in September.
‘It’s almost like a fresh start for me again in terms of playing and I’m excited to be back,’ said Clarke. ‘I couldn’t think of a better place to do that than starting here in Macao.’
‘My priorities in the past two years have been towards the Ryder Cup. Obviously, that’s now finished and from my own perspective and from the European perspective, we had a disappointing result. I couldn’t have done any more than I tried to do. Now I’ve got to get back to the day job and try to hit a golf ball and hit it straight,’ he added.
The Northern Irishman last played the island course in 1999 and was surprised by the changes that have occurred over the last 17 years.
‘I played nine holes this morning with Ian Poulter and the trees are now a lot bigger than they were the last time I was here. We used to take some short cuts but I don’t think we can do that now,’ said Clarke.