Branden Grace fought off a brave challenge from Denmark’s Thorbjørn Olesen to win his fifth title of the season at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.
“It feels awesome,” said Grace, who has risen from outside the Official World Golf Ranking’s top 300 to inside the top 40 and might even yet deny Number One McIlroy The Race to Dubai next month.
He is up from 12th to third and added: “It’s definitely in my sights.”
Grace, who began the week with a European Tour record-equalling 60 at Kingsbarns, claimed the €617,283 first prize with a tournament record 22 under par total.
But if starting the final round with a four stroke lead and ending it two ahead of Dane Olesen sounds a comfortable day’s work, then think again.
After the Pretoria golfer dropped a shot on the seventh, Olesen birdied the next two and when Grace three-putted the short 11th for another bogey they were level.
It was then, however, that he showed the class that had already brought him the Joburg Open, Volvo Golf Champions, Volvo China Open and, on the Sunshine Tour last Sunday, the Origins of Golf titles in 2012.
Grace birdied the following three holes from ten, 12 and 14 feet and when Olesen bogeyed the next, the gap was back to four – although even then it was not a cruise to the line.
Olesen birdied the 16th and he bogeyed the Road Hole 17th, but when the Sicilian Open winner came up a fraction short with his eagle attempt through the Valley of Sin on the last, Grace had two putts for victory from four feet – and needed only one of them.
It made him the first wire-to-wire winner of The European Tour season, but was the second time he has won back-to-back.
Like Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel, Grace is a product of the Ernie Els Foundation and the current Open Champion has already tipped him to be another Major Champion.
Winning at the Home of Golf, as Oosthuizen did in the 2010 Open, will do for the time being, though.
“I’ve really dreamt of this moment my whole life,” he said. “I had goosebumps thinking this morning about Louis and the possibility of holding a trophy here myself.
“It was a tough day, but the putter started working and that’s all I needed to do.” (EuropeanTour.com)