Branden Grace honed his game at Fancourt in George, where the coastal weather forced him to learn a range of shots; low stingers into the wind, bump and runs, and how to shape it both ways. His arsenal of shots came in handy during the first round of the Genesis Open on Thursday, where he shot 67 for a share of seventh place.
’It’s my first time here at Riviera, reminds me of a lot of courses back home where I come from. It’s nice to have a bogey-free round on a tough course like this,’ he said.
The world number 17 began at the 10th hole and scrambled his way to the turn in level par. He got into the second loop with an eagle at the first hole, then birdied the second to dig three shots under par. A final birdie at the seventh got him to four under par, where he stayed to share seventh place with 10 others, including Phil Mickelson.
‘I’ve watched this tournament a couple of time on TV,’ said Grace. ‘Charl (Schwartzel) has told me a couple of times that it’s a course I’ll like, because of the shot-shaping you need to hit. This is similar to SA, the same grass on the fairway and similar greens, but you still have to grind it out. I got the most out of the round today.’
Sam Saunders took the lead with an opening round of 64. He was seven under par and two shots clear of a five-way tie for second place that included Dustin Johnson.
Huge storms are forecast for the coming two days and most players were expecting weather delays.
‘I mentally prepared for not playing golf tomorrow, actually, as I approached this week,’ Saunders explained. ‘I said I’ll try to go and get off to a good start and know that day two is probably not going to happen until Saturday.’
Grace, three shots behind the American’s lead, was prepared for some weather delays.
‘We might have two days off, but let’s hope for the best. The trees are a lot bigger and the greens are a lot smaller. There are a couple of tricky holes out there, so it’s about staying patient this week,’ he explained.