South Africa’s Branden Grace has won his fourth European Tour title of the year at the 2012 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, becoming the first European Tour Qualifying School graduate to win four tournaments in the season after graduation.

Grace is enjoying a meteoric rise through the ranks of tour golf. The 24-year-old from Pretoria began 2012 with a world ranking of 271, and tomorrow he will move into the world’s top 40 for the first time. The £491,642 first prize has pushed Grace up to third place on the European Tour’s Race to Dubai behind just Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose, leap-frogging his illustrious countrymen Louis Oosthuizen and Ernie Els as he goes.

“I thought maybe I could win one or two events this year, which would have been great, but it is just awesome to have won four,” said Grace, who this week stayed with his friend Oosthuizen, who won the Open here in 2010. “I’m third in the Race to Dubai now, so my thoughts are moving into trying to win it. If I can win one more, or have a couple of good finishes, then it is definitely in my sights.”

Grace led the Dunhill Links Championship from beginning to end, having opened his challenge with a stunning round of 60, 12 under par, to set a course record at Kingsbarns on Thursday. After shooting 67 at St Andrews in the second round, and then 69 at Carnoustie yesterday, Grace opened up a five-shot lead to carry into today’s final round on the Old Course.

A birdie at the first gave Grace the perfect start, but then 22-year-old Dane Thorbjorn Olesen, playing alongside Grace in the final group, began to mount a spirited challenge. Olesen, who won his first title in the Sicilian Open in April, holed birdie putts on the fifth, eight and ninth holes, and when Grace played a jittery putting stroke to miss par on the 11th, the pair were tied for the lead.

Grace responded emphatically, birdying the next three holes to open up a three-shot lead, and he eventually closed with a score of 70, two under par, to beat Olesen by two. Sweden’s Alexander Noren finished a further two shots back, with fellow Swede Joel Sjoholm two more back in fourth place.

“I struggled with the speed of the greens all day,” admitted Grace. “When we were tied for the lead I asked my caddie Zach to help me read the lines because I thought I was reading too much into them, and we got the line and the speed together and the putts started to go in.”

The better-ball pro-am Team element of the Dunhill Links was won by Noren and Swiss-Italian businessman Ernesto Bertarelli.

Article courtesy of Mercedes-Benz, the official car of the 2012 Ryder Cup and the
2012 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.