Tue, Dec 16, 2014 - Page 19 News List

Branden Grace in command to win in South Africa

AFP, MALELANE, South Africa

Branden Grace completed a wire-to-wire win at the European Tour’s Alfred Dunhill Championship on Sunday, closing with a fine 68 for a commanding seven-stroke victory.

It was the South African’s fifth European Tour title, the other four all coming in a remarkable 2012 season.

Grace had been five clear of the field at the halfway stage at Leopard Creek Golf Course after following a sparkling opening 62 with a round of 66.

However, a third round 72 put him at 16-under with little-known Dane Lucas Bjerregaard closing to within one of the lead.

The door was open, but no one was able to step through it as Grace romped away to a 20-under total and comprehensive seven stroke margin of victory over compatriot Louis Oosthuizen.

Last year’s Challenge Tour No. 1 Andrew Johnston was third on 11-under, with Nedbank Challenge winner Danny Willett and Trevor Fisher Junior tied for fourth, a whopping 10 shots behind the winner.

Grace said it had been a “phenomenal week.”

“It’s been a long year, a hard year, but now it’s a fairytale ending just before Christmas,” he said.

“One of the main things this week has been the driving; I just put a new driver in the bag in Dubai and that’s been the key this week,” he added.

Grace swiftly doubled his overnight advantage when Bjerregaard bogeyed the first after finding a greenside bunker, and Grace birdied the second after an excellent pitch to tap-in range to pull further clear.

A birdie from five feet at the fourth was followed by a gutsy par save from sand at the short fifth, but Bjerregaard was up-and-down for birdie at the driveable sixth to close to within three.

However, the 23-year-old Dane was dealt a major setback at the short seventh when he found the water and ran up a triple bogey six, and his afternoon unraveled from that point as he took 50 shots on the back nine to tumble down the leaderboard.

Grace failed to get up-and-down at the seventh and sporadically came under pressure from Oosthuizen, Willett and Johnston.

The 26-year-old kept them at arm’s length by successfully getting up-and-down at the driveable 11th for birdie and two-putting the long 13th and 15th for further gains.

A poor bunker shot at the 16th led to a bogey, but nearest challenger Willett dropped six shots over the last three holes and Oosthuizen found water at the last to alleviate any lingering pressure.

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