Branden Grace shot 66 on Sunday at Harbour Town Golf Links to win his first PGA Tour title at the RBC Heritage, where he trumped Russell Knox and Luke Donald by two strokes.
The 27-year-old rose to 11th in the World Ranking and overtook Louis Oosthuizen as the top South African on the charts. He also took another big step towards winning a major.
‘This really puts the cherry on top of the cake,’ Grace said. ‘And I’m excited for things to start. I can tick this one off the box and head into the next couple of majors trying to win it. I have one notch, I’ve done it before and I can do it again.’
Grace began the final round three shots off the pace, but raced to the turn in 32 strokes, which closed the gap. He then birdied the 12th and 13th to pull clear of the field and, despite making a bogey at the 17th, took a comfortable walk up the 18th en route to his breakthrough win.
‘Now getting this first victory, I can relax and forget about just keeping the card and that kind of stuff. And now I’m sorted for a couple of years,’ he said.
‘This really kind of gets you in the mood to settle down a little bit and just step into gear whenever you can. But I’m not going to change my schedule,’ he added.
Grace missed the cut at The Masters last week, but came to Harbour Town Golf Links with a positive outlook. He had shared seventh at the RBC Heritage last year and liked his chances.
‘This is where my year kicked off in 2015 and I was amped to get back here. I like the type of golf you have to play here and this week it worked out for me,’ he said.
Ernie Els shot 66 on Sunday, which was his lowest round since the 2013 WGC-HSBC Champions, where he shot the same score. It was a vindicating performance for The Big Easy after his six-putt at Augusta National last week.
‘I think I’m just a freak like everybody else, just like anybody else trying to get better. I’m just like my father trying to get another five yards and like any other guy on Tour thinking what to do, how to feel comfortable. I’m just doing the same thing. And I think that’s the love we have for the game. We love to get tortured and we love to play good golf. And on a day you feel like, man, I could play this game again.
‘The game is always going to be better than us, but every now and then we have our day and I think that’s what we love doing,’ he said after finishing in 14th place this week.