Golf

Branden edges clear at PGA

2011-02-26 16:10
Branden Grace (Gallo)
Johannesburg - Branden Grace edged a single stroke clear of his pursuers on Saturday as he carded a five-under-par 67 to lead the R3.25-million Telkom PGA Championship on the Woodmead course at Country Club Johannesburg.

And it took a superb little chip to within a foot on 18 for him to pull ahead of George Coetzee, with whom he has been waging a thrilling battle throughout the tournament.

That gave him a simple birdie putt, while Coetzee missed a six-footer for birdie which would have drawn him level with Grace.

“I actually thought my second to 18 was on the green,” said Grace of his approach to the 536-metre par-five. “It was the perfect length, but it just bounced back instead of forwards.

“I got a bit lucky there too, because it could have rolled back into the bunker, but it held up and gave me a nice little chip,” he added.

Grace is seeking his second professional victory after his maiden Sunshine Tour win in October last year, while Coetzee is looking for his fifth victory – his first since 2008.

After opening rounds of 65 and 64 for each of them, Grace and Coetzee found scoring a little tougher as the race to the finish got closer.

Grace’s 67 trumped Coetzee’s 68, and it contained his first dropped shot of the week: “I think I just lost concentration for a bit,” said Grace of his bogey on the 10th which came as a result of some porr putting.

Coetzee wavered at two successive holes, as he bogeyed 12 and 13 with his two worst drives of the week. “I think I know what I did wrong, and I’ll be making sure it doesn’t happen again tomorrow,” he said.

The tension in the leading group – Grace and Coetzee were joined by Hennie Otto, who could not make a single birdie after his third for the day on the sixth hole – meant that Neil Schietekat’s superlative eight-under-par 64 was the round of the day, catapulting him into a share of second with Coetzee.

His was a flawless round, as he made five birdies on his opening nine, and then three more on his way home.

The 27-year-old Schietekat, who qualified to play in the Open Championship, is on a mission to win his first professional title since he turned professional in 2006.

Behind Schietekat, 2009 champion Jaco van Zyl, Oliver Bekker and Neil Cheetham all carded seven-under-par 65s. Bekker’s round moved him to 15-under-par for the tournament in a share of sixth; Cheetam was in a share of 10th, eight shots off the lead; and Van Zyl climbed to a share of 16th, 10 off the pace.

Grace and Coetzee have been friends since their amateur days, and the shootout between them in the final round promises to be entertaining.

“I told myself this is one event I really want to win,” said Grace, “so I have been trying to stay in the here and now. I have managed to do that so far, and I hope tomorrow’s not going to be any different.”

Coetzee, on the other hand, is content to relinquish the lead to Grace – for now. “Let him do the front running,” he said. “I’ll do the charging.”

Scores (RSA unless specified):

196 - Branden Grace 65 64 67

197 - Neil Schietekat 68 65 64, George Coetzee 65 64 68

199 - Hennie Otto 66 64 69

200 - Divan van den Heever 69 63 68

201 - Oliver Bekker 65 71 65, Garth Mulroy 68 66 67, Mark Murless 66 67 68

202 - Chris Swanepoel 67 67 68

204 - Neil Cheetham (ENG) 68 71 65, Bradford Vaughan 69 70 65, Adam Hadwin (CAN) 66 71 67, Peter Karmis 71 66 67

205 - Keith Horne 68 71 66, Louis de Jager 69 67 69

206 - Jaco Van Zyl 72 69 65, TC Charamba (ZIM) 68 69 69, Doug McGuigan 68 69 69, Tyrone Ferreira 69 66 71

207 - Ulrich van den Berg 70 70 67, Omar Sandys 71 67 69, Josh Cunliffe 73 65 69, Anton Haig 65 71 71, Matthew Carvell 68 67 72, Deane Pappas 66 67 74

208 - Jake Roos 69 73 66, Jean Hugo 71 70 67, Charl Coetzee 70 69 69, Justin Harding 73 66 69, Ryan Cairns (ZIM) 68 70 70, Christian Ries 68 69 71, Vaughn Groenewald 71 63 74

209 - Andre Cruse 70 71 68, Tjaart van der Walt 72 69 68, Dean O'Riley 69 70 70, Trevor Fisher Jnr 68 71 70, Alex Haindl 70 68 71, Jacques Blaauw 70 67 72, Jbe' Kruger 67 70 72

210 - Adilson da Silva (BRA) 71 70 69, David Hewan 70 71 69, Christiaan Basson 68 73 69, Dean Burmester 70 69 71, James Kamte 71 68 71, James Kingston 70 68 72, Bennie van der Merwe 72 65 73

211 - Alan McLean (SCO) 70 72 69, Ashley Roestoff 73 69 69, Alan Michell 70 71 70, Darryn Lloyd 65 75 71, Thomas Aiken 70 70 71

212 - Allan Versfeld 72 67 73, Andrew Georgiou 69 70 73, Ockie Strydom 68 71 73, Darren Fichardt 67 69 76

213 - Desvonde Botes 74 68 71, Bruce McDonald (ZIM) 72 69 72, Jeff Inglis (ENG) 70 71 72, Ryan Tipping 70 70 73, Darren Blair 71 69 73, Ryan Strauss 66 71 76

214 - Jeremy Kavanagh (ENG) 71 71 72, Walter Els 71 71 72

215 - Callie Swart 72 70 73, Johan Bekker 74 67 74, Tyrone Mordt 72 69 74, Albert Pistorius 67 73 75, Michael Scholz 69 71 75

217 - Brett Liddle 68 72 77

218 - Derek Scullard 69 72 77

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