Branden Grace of South Africa claimed his first European Tour title with a one-stroke victory over England’s Jamie Elson in the Joburg Open at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club.
After weather delays on each of the first two days, Grace arrived at the golf club on Sunday with three holes of his third round still to complete. At that stage he was tied for the lead with England’s Richard Finch.
But after the Englishman had bogeyed the 17th and Grace birdied the last two holes, the young South African had built a three shot lead to take into the final round.
The last 18 holes were relatively uneventful for Grace. He suffered a minor wobble with a bogey at the 2nd but cancelled that with a birdie at the 9th. He completed every other hole in par.
Finch fell apart during the final round after consecutive three-putts at the fifth and sixth. He ended up signing for a 78 to drop down the leaderboard. He finished in a tie for 24th.
It was another Englishman who emerged as Grace’s closest challenger. Jamie Elson, who holed a 40 foot birdie putt on the final hole at Qualifying School to secure his card, fired six birdies in his first eight holes. Closing with an eagle three, he posted a stellar final round of 63 to set a clubhouse total of 17-under-par.
Elson was watching on as Grace made his way down the par-5 closing hole with a one-shot advantage. The 23-year-old drove into the right rough then laid up with his second shot. He then hit a nervy pitch that ended some 30 feet shy of the flag. But the Q-school graduate held his nerve and managed to two-putt and secure the win.
“It’s a dream come true,” said Grace. “It’s nice to win in front of a home crowd and I wouldn’t exchange it for anything else. It was pretty tough out there today. I played really nicely, I hit the ball superb I think, and the putter was just cold – I couldn’t get the speed of the greens going today. Fortunately at the end of the day it was enough.”
Two Scots, David Drysdale and Marc Warren, enjoyed solid final round performances to end the week tied for third. Robert Rock, who led after two rounds, couldn’t get it going on the weekend and he eventually finished in a tie for ninth.
Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club, South Africa
Jan 12-15, purse €1,300,000, par 72
1 Branden Grace (RSA) 67 66 65 72 270 €206,050
2 Jamie Elson (Eng) 63 75 70 63 271 €149,500
T3 David Drysdale (Sco) 65 72 69 67 273 €53,972
T3 Marc Warren (Sco) 66 69 70 68 273 €53,972
T3 Jaco Van Zyl (RSA) 67 69 69 68 273 €53,972
T3 Trevor Fisher Jnr (RSA) 68 68 69 68 273 €53,972
T3 Dawie Van der Valt (RSA) 70 66 67 70 273 €53,972
T3 Michiel Bothma (RSA) 68 66 68 71 273 €53,972
T9 George Murray (Sco) 65 69 73 67 274 €24,620
T9 Bernd Wiesberger (Aut) 70 66 69 69 274 €24,620
T9 Robert Rock (Eng) 65 67 72 70 274 €24,620
T9 Jbe Kruger (RSA) 67 66 69 72 274 €24,620
Note: Player score in bold signifies Titleist ball usage
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