Grace wins Joburg Open
Branden Grace (Gallo Images)
Johannesburg - Steady South African Branden Grace pipped sizzling Englishman Jamie Elson by one shot on Sunday to win the Joburg Open and his maiden European Tour title.
Elson fired a nine-under-par final-round 63 and then waited 160 minutes to see Grace tap in a par putt at the final hole for a closing 72 on the east course at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club.
It was tough on Elson, who trailed Grace by 10 strokes going into the last round of the €1.3 million second leg of the 2012 Road to Dubai, which compatriot and world No 1 Luke Donald won last year.
Holding a three-shot advantage ahead of his final journey around the par-72, 6 995m track, 23-year-old Grace personified steadiness with 16 pars, one birdie and one bogey.
Grace was not in a mood to gamble and it showed on the par-five final hole with a safe drive and an equally careful second that landed just short of two bunkers guarding the entrance to the green.
He chipped into the heart of the green, judged the distance of an uphill birdie putt perfectly only for the ball to veer slightly right and tapped it into the hole before clenching his fist with delight.
Grace had rounds of 67, 66, 65 and 72 for a 17-under total of 270 and collected a first prize of €206 000 while Elson scored 63, 75, 70 and 63 for 271 and second place.
"It was a really tough final round as my putter turned cold," confessed Grace. "Winning on the European Tour is a dream come true and where better to do it than in South Africa."
Grace bogeyed the second and birdied the ninth in an otherwise regulation round as the storms, downpours and bad light which played havoc with the first three rounds gave way to warm, bright, partly cloudy conditions.
Elson was unstoppable on the front nine, snatching six birdies including five on the trot from the fourth. However, he had to settle for just one more birdie the inward nine before grabbing an eagle three on the final hole.
South Africans Michiel Bothma (final-round 71), Trevor Fisher (68), Dawie van der Walt (70) and Jacob van Zyl (68) and Scots David Drysdale (67) and Marc Warren (68) shared third spot.
Former US Open champion Retief Goosen of South Africa closed with a one-over 73 after being let down by his putting throughout the tournament and finished alone on 277 - seven behind the new champion.
Scoreboard from the Joburg OpenScores after the final round of the Joburg Open over the par-72, 6 995m east course at the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club on Sunday (RSA unless noted):
270 - Branden Grace 67-66-65-72
271 - Jamie Elson (ENG) 63-75-70-63
273 - David Drysdale (SCO) 65 72 69 67, Marc Warren (SCO) 66-69-70-68, Jaco van Zyl 67-69-69-68, Trevor Fisher jnr 68-68-69-68, Dawie van der Walt 70-66-67-70, Michiel Bothma 68-66-68-71
274 - George Murray (SCO) 65-69-73-67, Bernd Wiesberger (AUT) 70-66-69-69, Robert Rock (ENG) 65-67-72-70, Jbe' Kruger 67-66-69-72
275 - Andrew Parr (CAN) 70-69-64-72
276 - Danny Willett (ENG) 69-67-68-72, George Coetzee 65-67-69-75
277 - Retief Goosen 66-67-71-73
278 - Lee Slattery (ENG) 72-67-69-70, Craig Lee (SCO) 64-74-70-70, Andrew Marshall (ENG) 70-69-71-68, Chris Swanepoel 68-69-73-68, Magnus Carlsson (SWE) 70-66-70-72, Reinier Saxton (NED) 64-73-69-72, Joakim Lagergren (SWE) 70-67-68-73
279 - Lyle Rowe 66-69-74-70, Ulrich van den Berg 68-68-71-72, Julien Quesne (FRA) 65-72-70-72, Thomas Aiken 68-68-70-73, Warren Abery 66-72-68-73, Shaun Norris 65-69-71-74, Scott Jamieson (SCO) 68-67-70-74, Richard Finch (ENG) 66-66-69-78