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Ken Borland


Wire-to-wire Leopard Creek win ‘something special’ for Grace

Posted on February 18, 2015 by Ken

Branden Grace described it as “something special” as he became the first golfer to win the Alfred Dunhill Championship wire-to-wire when he cruised to a seven-stroke victory at Leopard Creek on Sunday.

The 26-year-old is a tremendous front-runner, all four of his previous European Tour wins coming after he led going into the final round, and Sunday was no exception as he produced an exceptionally solid 68, with just two bogeys, to finish on 20-under-par.

Fellow South African and close friend Louis Oosthuizen was the runner-up, shooting 69 on Sunday to finish on 13-under, while Grace’s nearest challengers, Lucas Bjerregaard and Danny Willett, endured horrible final rounds that saw them plummet down the leaderboard.

“It’s something special going wire-to-wire because this is one of the tournaments every South African golfer wants to win, especially because of what Mr and Mrs Rupert do for golf,” Grace said.

The Fancourt-based golfer made it look easy as he was superb off the tee, accurate with his irons and solid with the putter, collecting six birdies, four of them on the par-fives.

“The par-fives were the big turnaround today, I played them in one-over yesterday [Saturday], but today I was four-under. The other big thing was that I was great off the tee, on a course where you really need to be. I felt so comfortable with my driver,” Grace said.

It was a day of immense trauma for Bjerregaard, the Dane starting the day with high hopes, just one shot behind Grace. He was level-par after birdieing the sixth hole, but then the wheels fell off after a triple-bogey six at the seventh.

His drive was far left into long grass but his chip seemed to be a good one; unfortunately it just kept rolling on the hard and fast green, past the hole and into the water.

Bjerregaard bogeyed eight and was out in 39, but then the horror show really began: double-bogey at 10, quadruple-bogey at 11 and another dropped shot at 12. He came in with a double-bogey at 15 and four other bogeys – an astonishing 50 for the back nine and a round of 89 that dropped him to two-over-par and a tie for 49th.

Willett looked to be gearing himself up for a charge with back-to-back birdies around the turn and on 13 and 14, but a rare mis-hit iron shot on 16 found the water and led to a double-bogey. That was followed by a bogey at 17 and a demoralised Willett then bombed out with a triple-bogey eight on the last, to finish in a tie for fourth with Trevor Fisher Jnr, who carded a fine 69 on Sunday.

Andrew Johnston shot a one-over-par 73, but it was good enough for the Englishman to hang on to third place on 11-under.

It was a top-class display, however, by Grace. Having wowed the tartan brigade at St Andrew’s with his wire-to-wire win in the Alfred Dunhill Links in 2012, he now reminded the Lowvelders clad in shades of khaki of his pedigree.

He has spoken all week of feeling near to his best again – 2012 when he claimed all four of his European Tour triumphs – and that makes him one of South Africa’s best golfers.

“It’s a great start to the new season after a hard year. My game was spot-on today, there weren’t a lot of misses, maybe two bad shots all day. To win so convincingly is really nice,” Grace said.

 

 

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