Golf

Grace: Awesome to beat idols

2012-01-22 20:53
Branden Grace (File)

George - South Africa's Branden Grace held off the challenge of two of his country's greatest players to win the Volvo Golf Champions tournament in a sudden death playoff at The Links at Fancourt on Sunday.

Grace, 23, tied with former Major winners Ernie Els and Retief Goosen on 12-under-par 280 over the demanding par-73, 6 652m artificial links, then made a two-putt birdie on the par-five 18th, the first playoff hole, while Els and Goosen could only make par.

"It's just awesome to beat two of my idols in a playoff," he said.

"Now I know that I have done it before and I can do it again."

It was Grace's second successive European Tour win after he qualified for the champions only event by winning last week's Joburg Open.

His €350 000 first prize took his earnings in two weeks to €556 050 and made him a runaway leader of the Tour's Race to Dubai.

Having been 258th on the world rankings before last week's win, he is assured of being in the top 100 when the rankings are updated this week.

He doesn't plan to stop. He will play in the three-tournament Middle East swing starting with the Abu Dhabi championship from Thursday.

"Hopefully it doesn't stop," he said. "I'm running with the emotion and I'll keep playing until I'm exhausted or until I find that it's time to take a break." He said his next goal was to reach the top 50 in the rankings.

The George resident and 2011 European Tour qualifying school graduate overcame a shaky start to post a final round of two-under-par 71.

His chances of holding off a chasing pack dominated by Major champions seemed slim when he had a double bogey on the third and bogey on the fourth.

But he clawed his way back with birdies at the sixth and ninth and added three more birdies on a bogey-free back nine.

"I've learned the hard way," he said. "I've been on Tour, lost my card and managed to get it back. My dad and my management company have told me it's not a bad thing to go backwards before you go forwards and achieve great things."

Nicolas Colsaerts of Belgium bogeyed the last to finish fourth on 281, with Masters champion Charl Schwartzel fifth on 282.

Els came from four off the pace with a six-under-par 67 to take the clubhouse lead, telling reporters he thought he would probably finish one off the pace.

He was joined on 12-under by Colsaerts, who birdied the par-four 15th, and with two par-fives still to play the long-hitting Belgian became the favourite.

But it was playing partner Grace who birdied the long 16th, leaving his eagle putt on the lip after a superb long iron second, to make it a three-way tie.

Colsaerts was in deep rough with his drive and then had to get up and down from a greenside bunker to make par.

Goosen played himself back into contention with birdies at the last two holes, hitting it close at the par-three 17th and then emulating Els with an excellent chip at the last to make it a four-way tie.

Colsaerts hit a wild drive on the last and had to play towards the first fairway, then failed to get up and down from behind the green.

Masters champion Schwartzel had an up-and-down round. He and Goosen shared the lead early in the round but a bogey at the short 11th and a double bogey at the par-four 12th put him four behind.

But he went eagle-birdie-birdie at the next three holes to once again join the leaders, only to miss the green at the short 17th, taking bogey, then failing to birdie the last.

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