Grace holds his nerve
South African pars home to claim maiden European Tour win
Last Updated: 30/01/12 6:35pm
Branden Grace: Maiden European Tour victory for the South African
Branden Grace sealed his maiden European Tour title as he produced a measured display in the final round of the Joburg Open to clinch a one-shot victory.
Grace shot a level-par 72 that included 16 pars to finish on 17-under-par, just ahead of England's Jamie Elson who stormed into second place on the back of a superb final round of 63.
Scottish duo David Drysdale (67) and Marc Warren (68) ended in a six-way tie for third at 14-under alongside four home players; Jaco Van Zyl, Michiel Bothma, Dawe Van Der Walt and Trevor Fisher Jr.
Grace, who secures a one-year exemption with his triumph, becomes the 30th different South African to win on the European Tour in what was his 50th start on the circuit.
(SA unless stated)
-17 B Grace
-16 J Elson (Eng)
-14 M Bothma
-14 D Drysdale (Sco)
-14 T Fisher Jr
-14 D Van Der Walt
-14 J Van Zyl
-14 M Warren
Click here for collated scores
The 23-year-old was up early on Sunday morning to complete the remaining three holes of his third round and did so in fine style, as he birdied 17 and 18 to open up a three-shot lead heading into the final round.
But he started his final 18 in rather nervy fashion as he followed a par at the generous par-five first with a bogey at the second.
However, with the exception of Elson who rolled home a fantastic eagle putt at the 18th to close to within a shot of the leader and post the clubhouse target, Grace's rivals were unable to put him under any real pressure.
George Coetzee was unable to recover from three straight bogeys at the start of his final round, while England's Richard Finch fell away to a disastrous 78 as he ended way back in a tie for 24th.
Grace made birdie at the ninth to get himself back level with compatriot Bothma remaining his closest active challenger.
But, following a bogey at 17, Grace was able to head to the final tee knowing a par-five would be good enough for victory and he duly obliged with a steady two-putt.
"This is a dream come true, it's nice to win in front of a home crowd and I wouldn't change it for anything else," the delighted South African said afterwards.