With his wire-to-wire win at this week’s Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in Scotland, the young 24 year-old South African Branden Grace has capped an incredible run from surviving the qualifying school to amassing four victories on the European Tour in the last 12 months. Four European tour wins in a year puts him in some rarified air with guys like Seve, Tiger, Ernie, Sir Nick, Monty, Bernard Langer, Lee Westwood, and Martin Kaymer.
Grace wins $800,000 for his wire-to-wire 22 under score in this prestigious event played over the Old Course at St. Andrews, the Championship Course at Carnoustie, and the Kingsbarns Golf Links. He set the tone early with a sizzling 60 at Kingbarns on the first day and held a four-shot lead going into the final round at St. Andrews.
But it would be no cake walk with Denmark’s Thorbjorn Oelsen nipping at his heels making three birdies on the front side and pulling even for the championship when Grace bogied the 11th. He gathered himself making birdies on the next three holes rebuilding his advantage and played even down the last four to hold on for a two-shot win.
This championship has been a site for some heart stopping duels of late. As recounted in this moegolf post of the 2012 Championship, an unheralded Northern Irishman, Michael Hoey, outdueled the two previous U.S. Open champions, fellow countrymen Rory McIllroy and Graeme McDowell, to win the top prize.
A product of the Ernie Els development program in South Africa, Branden Grace is in the mold of Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel as possibly the next great player from a country that has produced so many distinguished global champions.
Maybe the most impressive stat is that Grace has won 100% of the time he has had or shared the lead going into the final round of a European Tour event. No one will challenge his ability to close. You have to think this young phenom has his eyes on a spot on the President’s Cup team for 2013 and some solid performances when he gets invites to the World Golf Events and Majors next year.