Golf | The rise and rise of Branden Grace

Somerset West – While it is probably not the
most accurate reflection of the state of the game, no world number one – former
or current – was able to match the peerless Branden Grace’s 5-0-0 showing
during last week’s Presidents Cup.

His five victories in five matches – four with Louis
Oosthuizen – was a rare-enough feat in Presidents Cup history, reports the Sunshine Tour website.

He was just the
fifth player in Presidents Cup history, and the second International player, to
win all five matches. Mark O’Meara in 1996, Tiger Woods in 2009 and Jim Furyk
in 2011 did so for the United States, while Shigeki Maruyama of Japan won all
five matches in 1998 for the Internationals.

And that completely eclipsed the performances of current
world number one Jordan Spieth (3-2-0) and former number ones Jason Day (0-4-1)
and Adam Scott (1-2-2).

Perhaps it’s time to evaluate Grace’s place in the golfing
world order again, especially after that Korean steamroller effort which has
added to the lustre of a year in which he nearly won two majors.

Okay, it goes without saying that Spieth’s year makes him
the best golfer in the world, but Grace’s share of fourth in the US Open and
third place in the PGA Championship, as well as his best-ever finish of tied-20th
in The Open Championship, clearly indicate he is playing in lofty company. Two
wins – three, if you count last December’s Alfred Dunhill Championship,
co-sanctioned by the Sunshine Tour and The European Tour, and which counted for
the 2015 Race to Dubai – merely burnish that record for the year a little

In the Presidents Cup, he was better than Bubba Watson,
Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson, Zach Johnson, Oosthuizen, Hideki Matsuyama, Matt
Kuchar, Jimmy Walker, JB Holmes and Patrick Reed – those are all players ranked
above him in the Official World Golf Rankings. And the list doesn’t include the
number ones who weren’t able to hold a candle to his stellar play. Or even Phil
Mickelson, the US Team’s captain’s pick who was notable for some brilliant
shots, quirky handshakes and the offering of his expanding girth for lucky rubs
by his team-mates.

So what should we make of Grace? For even American golf
writers are starting to take note, and they are notoriously one-eyed,
especially if, as is the case with Grace, the player has yet to win on the
pitch-and-putt courses so often on offer on the PGA Tour.

“Say hello to Branden Grace. The 27-year-old
showed he deserves a spot at the young-guns table along with Jordan, Jason,
Rory, et al.” said Mark Godich, Sports Illustrated senior editor,

And Michael Bamberger, senior writer for the same publication
chimed in: “Grace! The most underrated player in all of golfdom. Could have won
a US Open if he could take back one hole, and maybe someday he will.”

That means South African fans have an heir to the pedigreed
bloodline which runs from Bobby Locke through Gary Player, Ernie Els and Retief
Goosen to Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel.

Grace may not have a major championship to his name yet. But
grabbing the opportunity to watch him in action when he returns to play in
South Africa is something every golf fan should do. It will make for some
riveting summer viewing.

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