Grace breaks his duck in Joburg

 

Golf:South African’s Branden Grace carded a level-par 72 in his final round to win the Joburg Open today and deny Jamie Elson what would have been a remarkable triumph. Elson finished with a stunning nine-under-par 63 which gave him the clubhouse lead for much of the afternoon.

But his wait for a mistake from Grace proved in vain as the local player calmly parred his way to victory on Royal Johannesburg and Kensington’s East Course. Grace, the joint overnight leader following a rain-shortened third day, ended up finishing the tournament on 17 under par, a shot clear of Elson and three in front of a group of six players on 14 under.

They were Scottish duo David Drysdale and Marc Warren, and South Africans Jaco Van Zyl, Trevor Fisher Jnr, Dawie Van der Walt and Michiel Bothma.

“This is a dream come true, it’s nice to win in front of my home crowd, I wouldn’t change it for anything else,” Grace said after claiming his maiden European Tour title.

Damien McGrane, who led after the first round, finished in a tie for 46th place after his challenge faded over the weekend, most of the damage done with a round of 76 yesterday.

Grace was tied for the lead yesterday on 15 under with Richard Finch when the day’s play was suspended by heavy storms. The 23-year-old from Pretoria birdied the final two holes of his third round this morning to move to 17 under, building a three-shot lead over nearest challengers Finch and South African George Coetzee heading into the final round.

Finch had been in contention for the opening three days but he had a Sunday to forget after completing his third round with a bogey five on the 17th before then falling away badly in his final round when he shot a six-over-par 78 to finish on eight under. In contrast Grace was a picture of consistency in his fourth round, playing out 16 holes to par, dropping a shot on the second before downing a birdie on the ninth.

That proved enough for victory as Elson, who holed a 40-foot birdie putt on the final green of the European Tour’s qualifying school at the end of last year to secure his card, could only sit and watch from the clubhouse having done he all he could to put himself in contention earlier on.

Elson’s brilliant round included six birdies on the opening nine holes to reach the turn in 31 and he added another birdie on the 16th before completing a magnificent day with an eagle three on the 18th.