Tue, Jan 17, 2012 - Page 19 News List

Branden Grace wins first European title

Reuters, JOHANNESBURG

South Africa’s Branden Grace plays a shot on the 15th hole on his way to winning the Joburg Open at the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club in Johannesburg, South Africa, on Sunday.

Photo: EPA

South Africa’s Branden Grace played with admirable composure to win his first European Tour title with victory in the Joburg Open by a stroke with a level-par final round of 72 on Sunday.

Grace finished on 17-under-par, one stroke ahead of Britain’s Jamie Elson, who catapulted himself into second place with an outstanding nine-under-par 63.

The 23-year-old began the final round with a three-stroke lead over compatriot George Coetzee and Britain’s Richard Finch. They were all playing in the final three-ball after weather delays on the first three days of the 1.3 million euro (US$1.65 million) event.

Finch crashed to a six-over-par 78, three-putting three times on the front nine, to end nine shots off the pace.

Coetzee closed to within two shots of the lead with birdies on the fifth, sixth and eighth holes, but the South African faded on the back nine after a double-bogey on the par-four 13th when he hooked his approach shot into the water.

The world No. 80 finished with a 75 to close on 11-under in a tie for 14th place.

Grace put together nine straight pars on the back nine to hold off Elson and six golfers who finished in a tie for third on 14-under.

The pressure of leading seemed to affect Grace at the start of the final round as he bogeyed the par-three second hole. However, a wonderful approach shot to within eight feet on the 389m par-four ninth hole set up a birdie that seemed to settle the former South African amateur strokeplay champion.

Grace’s back nine was the epitome of solid golf under pressure as he made no mistakes off the tee and was superb with his irons. The margin of victory would have been greater if he had not narrowly missed a number of birdie putts.

“The opportunities were there, but I told myself first of all not to mess up and then to just keep giving myself chances. I struggled to get the lines exactly right, the greens were immaculate, but if you were a little bit off, you ended four feet away,” he said.

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