Branden Grace will play his fourth Masters next week, but for the first time he’s got a real chance to don the green jacket.
The world number 13 has that special something when it comes to crunch time and plays his best golf under pressure. That became evident in the majors last year, specifically at the US Open, where he shared fourth place. A wayward tee shot at the 16th was the only thing that stood between the 27-year-old and glory, but his play through the week forced the golfing world to take notice.
He went on to share 20th at The Open Championship and then third at the PGA Championship.
Prior to that he had won six European Tour titles, but the PGA Tour-centric nature of international golf left him in the shade of players that he matches up to comfortably.
Not so this year after his two top-fives at the majors, which proved that he can face off against the likes of Jordan Spieth and Rory McIroy.
Grace’s booming drives and ability to knuckle down are an important part of his success, but the secret to his dominance may lie in his early years at Fancourt. The elite golfing estate has three courses, two of which are particularly good tracks. Learning his golf at such tricky layouts made Grace develop an array of shots and his ability to be creative is a special asset.
Ball flight is commonly discussed at Augusta National and the young South African’s ability to adjust the way he attacks a hole will be invaluable in the year’s first major.
While the world is drooling over the showdown between McIlroy, Spieth, and Jason Day there is a strong argument that Grace is the dark horse of the tournament.
Without the media focus he could well surprise us with a Schwartzel-esque victory amongst the magnolias.