Win puts Grace back into European money race08/10/2012 - 09:00:48
The PGA Tour money list title is already in the bag for Rory McIlroy, but the battle to be the European circuit’s number one this season may not be settled for another eight weeks.
South African Branden Grace put himself back in the race with a superb victory in the Dunhill Links Championship at St Andrews yesterday – his fifth of a year he is never going to forget.
Eleven months ago the 24-year-old was outside the world’s top 300 and gearing himself up for a fifth visit to the qualifying school.
Grace made it through that in 11th place, then won two events in a row in his home country in January, another in China in April and another back in South Africa eight days ago.
That put him level with McIlroy with four titles this season and now he has one more than the world number one after beating Dane Thorbjorn by two at the Home of Golf.
Justin Rose remains second on the money list table £346,000 behind, but Grace leapt from 12th to third and although he is a further £276,000 back there remains plenty of cash on offer for him to complete an unbelievable campaign.
“First is definitely in my sights,” the Pretoria golfer said after the first wire-to-wire victory of the Tour season.
“The gap is not a lot – maybe one more win or a couple of good finishes.”
Grace led last week from the moment he started the celebrity pro-am with a Tour record-equalling 60 at Kingsbarns and even when he was caught by Olesen with seven holes to play yesterday he responded with a hat-trick of birdies.
His caddie was Zack Rasego, the same man who was with compatriot Louis Oosthuizen when he won the Open Championship at St Andrews two years ago.
The close friends practised together on the course and Grace even watched clips from Oosthuizen’s victory before teeing off for the final round.
With a closing 70 his 22-under-par total matched the tournament record set by Northern Ireland’s Michael Hoey last October.
“It feels awesome to win here – I’ve really dreamt of this moment my whole life,” he added.
Ernie Els, delighted to see another product of his Foundation achieve such success, has already said he believes Grace has the talent to join Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel as a major champion.
And three-major winner Padraig Harrington added this: “There’s probably nobody else in golf I’d like to play with more – I’m curious to see what makes him tick.
“He gets in the lead and keeps going. That’s a tremendous trait to have – 99% of golfers stall.”
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