Dunhill Links winner Branden Grace has Rory McIlroy in his sights as Race To Dubai battle hots up
Last Updated: 08/10/12 2:12pm
Rory McIlroy faces new competition as he bids to emulate Luke Donald's feat of 12 months ago by winning both US and European money list titles in the same season.
The world number one has already wrapped up the US dollar race after banking $8.04million in a campaign which saw him win four times from just 16 starts.
But he can still be caught in the Race To Dubai and has a fresh challenger in the form of South African Branden Grace, who jumped from 15th to third in the Euro money list after pocketing 617,283 Euro after winning Sunday's Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in Scotland.
"First is definitely in my sights," the Pretoria golfer said after claiming his fourth European Tour win of the campaign with a two-shot success at St Andrews.
"The gap is not a lot - maybe one more win or a couple of good finishes."
McIlroy (2,813,962 Euro) still has a healthy lead over second-placed Justin Rose (2,376,628) and Grace (2,028,216) but there are still eight events to go.
Grace has decided to pull out of this week's Portugal Masters but four of the remaining seven tournaments - the BMW Masters in Shanghai, the WGC-HSBC Champions, the Barclays Singapore Open and the closing DP World Tour Championship, Dubai - all have significant purses, giving Grace and the chasing pack the chance to reel McIlroy in.
McIlroy is already assured of a big pay-day in this week's Turkish Airlines World Golf Final - the winner of the eight-man event banks $1.5million and last place is assured of $300,00 - but that is a non-official event and doesn't count towards any money list.
Grace led the Dunhill from the moment he started the celebrity pro-am with a Tour record-equalling 60 at Kingsbarns and even when he was caught by Olesen with seven holes to play on Sunday he responded with a hat-trick of birdies.
His caddie was Zack Rasego, the same man who was with compatriot Louis Oosthuizen when he won the Open Championship at St Andrews two years ago.
The close friends practised together on the course and Grace even watched clips from Oosthuizen's victory before teeing off for the final round.
With a closing 70 his 22-under-par total matched the tournament record set by Northern Ireland's Michael Hoey last October.
"It feels awesome to win here - I've really dreamt of this moment my whole life," he added.
Ernie Els, delighted to see another product of his Foundation achieve such success, has already said he believes Grace has the talent to join Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel as a major champion.
And three-major winner Padraig Harrington added this: "There's probably nobody else in golf I'd like to play with more - I'm curious to see what makes him tick.
"He gets in the lead and keeps going. That's a tremendous trait to have - 99% of golfers stall."