Grace’s presence felt at golf challenge

BEST WISHES: Golfing legend Gary Player congratulates Branden Grace on his win at the 18th for winning the 2017 Nedbank Golf Challenge. Photo: Annette van Schalkwyk

BRANDEN Grace’s name will appear with those of only a handful of other South African golfers on the Nedbank Golf Challenge trophy.

The Nedbank Golf Challenge presented by Gary Player took place from

November 9 to 12 at the Gary Player Country Club at Sun City.

It took a decade for one of the top golfers in the country to win the coveted trophy.

“It was one of my most important wins,” Grace said,

And what a win it was. Grace trailed the leaders most of the four days and only on the last day did he manage to break their hold. He shot a flawless six-under-par 66 to total 11-under to win the well-known Africa’s Major by a single stroke on Sunday.

AT LAST, THE WINNER: An elated Branden Grace wins the 2017 Nedbank Golf Challenge, breaking the foreign hold of 10 years.
Photo: Annette van Schalkwyk

“It’s awesome,” he said. “This is that one event that as a South African you want to win. It’s Africa’s Major for a reason.

“And what a special place it is, you know? A lot of history and a lot of great winners on the trophy, and I’m very glad to put my name on the trophy as well.”

Grace is the seventh winner on the European Tour’s elite Rolex Series this year, with this being the penultimate event in the Race to Dubai.

One of the all-time greats, Gary Player, was among the first to congratulate him at greenside on the 18th. This was significant because Player had also presented him with his first Sunshine Tour trophy back in 2010, when he won the Coca-Cola Championship presented by Gary Player at Fancourt.

LAST PUTT: South Africa’s Branden Grace plays his last putt on the 18th to win the coveted 2017 Nedbank Golf Challenge trophy.
Photo: Annette van Schalkwyk

Grace entered the final round trailing Scotland’s Scott Jamieson by three shots, while he was two behind Victor Dubuisson of France.

After making par on the first hole, Grace went on to make birdies on two, five and six and turned in 33.

As was the case for the better part of the week, his back nine was just as solid. He made three more birdies there to sign for a 66.

“I told Zack [his caddie], you know, that if I can get it bogey-free today, I’m going to be in there with a chance,” he said. “I managed to do that, hit the ball superbly all day. I gave myself great chances. Didn’t take all of them, but I did what I needed to do and it was great to finish, obviously, the way I did. And bogey-free it was.”

BOLD WIN: Branden Grace pumps his fist after playing the final shot on the 18th to clinch the 2017 Nedbank Golf Challenge title. Photo: Annette van Schalkwyk

Being paired with two of the best players in the tournament in the final round was always going to pose challenges. However, the 29-year-old showed his own class. After all, he holds the record for the lowest score in a major championship round with the 62 he shot at The Open at Royal Birkdale in July.

Jamieson took second place on 10-under with a closing 70, with his challenge hampered by a double-bogey six on the tough eighth hole.

Frenchman Dubuisson took third place on nine under par, and China’s Haotong Li stormed through the field with a final round of 64 to finish fourth on seven under.

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  AUTHOR
Annette van Schalkwyk
Sports journalist

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