• Grace hot on Rory’s heels

    Branden Grace
    Pumped up

    After ticking off the one win that has eluded him, Branden Grace now looks up at only one player more prolific on the European Tour in recent times … Rory McIlroy, writes WADE PRETORIUS.

    Since Grace’s breakthrough season in 2012 – he earned his card via the notoriously tough Q School – where he went back to back with victories at the Joburg Open and the now defunct Volvo Golf Champions to start the year, it has been a steady rise.

    The second of those European Tour wins meant he moved inside the top 100 in the world rankings for the first time and added gravitas to his growing reputation as he edged compatriots Ernie Els and Retief Goosen in the playoff.

    A few months later he added the Volvo China Open trophy to his mantlepiece and joined Els and Goosen as the third South African to win three times in a single season.

    In October, and following his third Sunshine Tour win, he broke the tournament scoring record when he claimed the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.

    Grace was forced to wait until December 2014 for another European Tour title when he cruised to the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek with Louis Oosthuizen in second place, albeit some seven shots back.

    The following month he won the Qatar Masters, a title which he would defend the following season. In November 2017, he ended a decade-long drought at the Nedbank Golf Challenge as he stormed home to beat Scotland’s Scott Jamieson by one.

    Towards the end of 2019, Grace found himself in the hunt for a second Alfred Dunhill Championship title but closed with a 73 to finish T3.

    Heartbreak was short-lived as his final-round 62 on Sunday at Randpark Golf Club ensured his completion of the biggest events in South African golf.

    The triumph was his ninth since 2012 on the European Tour which moved him past Justin Rose and two back of Rory McIlroy, the best player from the previous decade.

    Photo: Warren Little/Getty Images

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