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State of Grace


Home favourite cards a sensation nine under par 62 to lift the European Tour’s SA Open trophy with a three-shot win.

South Africa’s Branden Grace carded an incredible final round nine-under 62 to win the SA Open by three shots at Randpark Golf Club on Sunday.

Not only was it an amazing way to win his national Open, it was also the same score (62) that Grace shot in the British Open in 2017 at Royal Birkdale – the lowest score ever recorded in a Major.

Grace’s 21-under total, was three better than tournament host and defending champion Louis Oosthuizen who finished second on 18-under with a three-under 68 – which included a hole-in-one at the par three eighth. It was a simply spectacular round of golf by Grace, with one bogey, an eagle and eight birdies to claim the first prize of R2.7 million.

England’s Marcus Armitage was third on 16-under, with another Englishman in Jack Senior on 15-under alongside SA’s Jaco Ahlers.

Among a host of players tied on 13-under for sixth position was amateur Jayden Schaper, who also collected the Freddie Tait Cup for his efforts. Grace, in fact, won the Freddie Tait Cup in 2006 at Humewood – meaning the future is bright for 18-year-old Schaper.

It was a ninth European Tour victory for Grace, but the 31-year-old said it was always an honour to win one’s national Open.

“It took me long enough to get my hands on this trophy,” said Grace.

“This is the one I wanted. I’ve won the Dunhill, the Nedbank, the Joburg Open and Dimension Data – this is the one I really wanted to get my hands on. Being the second oldest event in the world means a lot and it also means so much to win it in South Africa in front of the home fans.”

Despite a bogey on his second hole to fall four behind overnight leader Oosthuizen, Grace said he kept believing the tournament was destined for his clutches.

“I felt in control from the start. I actually hit a good shot into the second, maybe just a couple yards right and had a big kick to the right. I took it on the chin, and my goal was to be tied with the leaders after nine holes. And I probably would have been one ahead if Louis didn’t have the hole-in-one on eight.

“It was a great day. I can’t remember the last time I played this well and was so in the zone – even from the first hole – I had a good look at birdie at the first. It was such an amazing day, and what a way to finish off.”

It was indeed a tense final round, with Oosthuizen struggling with a cold putter and Grace playing in the group ahead applying the pressure.

“If somebody tells you they don’t look at the leaderboard – I think they’re lying. There are so many leaderboards out there, you can’t not look. On a day like today, you have to look at the leaderboards when you’re coming from behind.

“When I saw I was tied or one ahead, I kept on pushing. In the past I might have put the brakes on, but today was a different scenario. I stayed in the moment.”

It was a first win since November 2017, when Grace lifted the Nedbank Challenge trophy at Sun City. A former world No 10, Grace’s ranking had plummeted to 129th, and the victory in Johannesburg could not have come at a better time.

“This just kickstarts my year. I ticked a lot of goals this week – getting back in The Open and the WGC [World Golf Championship].”

African News Agency (ANA)

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