Branden Grace wants to crack the world’s top 50 and make it to the Masters following his extraordinary second consecutive European Tour title after his victory at the Volvo Golf Champions at the Fancourt Links on Sunday.
“One of my goals is definitely to make the top 50. I just need to keep grinding on and to get to the Masters would be indescribable,” Grace said after his dramatic playoff victory.
Grace prevailed over his fellow South Africans Ernie Els and Retief Goosen and the 23-year-old said beating them had made his victory even sweeter.
“Lying in bed last night, I was reading articles about the tournament and I saw that there were 14 major wins behind me. It was unbelievable to win a tournament of this calibre and to beat two of my idols in a playoff is awesome,” Grace said.
It was an awful missed putt on the 72nd hole of regulation play that ensured Grace would have to join them in a playoff after his par on the 18th hole left the trio tied on 12-under-par. Grace shovelled a four-foot putt wide of the hole and his misfortune was repeated by Nicolas Colsaerts, who smashed a three-foot putt past the hole moments later to drop out of contention.
“If you make that sort of putt, you’re the hero, but when I missed it, I didn’t think I’d hit a bad putt, it was just a bit low on speed. It’s just one of those things, I didn’t really think of it being on the last hole because I knew we had one left,” Grace said.
The George Golf Club representative has always featured highly in the opinions of respected South African golf judges and finally seems to be fulfilling his undoubted potential. Grace celebrated his 50th European Tour start with his maiden victory at last week’s Joburg Open and became just the sixth golfer to win their first two events back-to-back.
“I would’ve preferred to have won much earlier in my career but I’ve learnt the hard way. I’ve been on tour, I’ve lost my card but sometimes it’s not bad going backwards to go forwards. I’ve learnt my lesson and I know for a fact that I’m a better player than before,” Grace said.
An analysis of Grace’s final round 71 shows that he hit 12 out of 14 fairways and made 14 out of 18 greens in regulation and it was clear he has an affinity for the Fancourt Links.
“I really wanted to do well and perform here at home, so it’s a dream come true. It’s unbelievable to win a tournament of this calibre,” Grace said.
“Amazing” and “phenomenal” were the other words Grace used to describe his double triumph and he is the fifth South African to win back-to-back European Tour titles. Dale Hayes was the first to do it when he won the Italian and French Opens in 1978, before Els claimed the Dubai Desert Classic and Qatar Masters titles in 2005. The other two instances have been during the Sunshine Tour’s co-sanctioned summer swing, with Richard Sterne winning the Alfred Dunhill Championship and South African Open in 2009 and Charl Schwartzel triumphing in the 2010 Africa and Joburg Opens.