Branden Grace ended his long wait for a ninth European Tour victory as he powered to a three-shot win over Louis Oosthuizen with a sensational final-round 62 at the South African Open.
Grace’s remarkable performance at Randpark GC proved comfortably enough to dethrone the defending champion, who lit up the final day with a spectacular hole-in-one at the eighth but faltered several times when he did need his putter.
The 31-year-old is coming off a torrid 2019 which saw him slide as low as 129th in the world rankings, although he did show signs of the Branden Grace of old when he finished tied for third at the Alfred Dunhill Championship last month.
Oosthuizen slept on a one-shot lead overnight, but he managed only pars over the first seven holes as Grace suddenly vaulted to the top of the leaderboard when he staged a stunning recovery from an early blemish at the second.
Grace birdied the third and fifth either side of a brilliant eagle at the fourth, and he picked up two further shots at the seventh and ninth to romp to the turn in 30 blows.
But as he was playing the ninth, he would have heard huge roars behind him when Oosthuizen’s seven-iron from the tee on the 211-yard par-three eighth had just enough carry to clear the water and pitch on the green before toppling into the hole for an incredible ace.
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As Oosthuizen bounced down the fairway he did turn to the camera and admit “it was a little further right than I wanted”, but he would have exchanged some of that good fortune for some on the greens as another chance went begging at the ninth.
Grace, meanwhile, refused to be ruffled by Oosthuizen’s perfect shot on the eighth and, after a par at the 10th, he extended his advantage with a sparkling run of four consecutive birdies, with the holder finally getting a birdie putt to drop on the 11th but he was off target again at 12 and 14 from “makeable” range.
The tournament developed into a two-horse race down the stretch as Marcus Armitage and Jaco Ahlers were unable to keep pace with the home favourites, and it was Grace who held firm.
The 31-year-old calmly parred 15, 16 and 17 although he did endure a nervy moment at the last when he pulled his drive into a tricky lie in the rough, and he caught his second heavy but got just enough on his ball to clear the hazard slitting the fairway.
With Oosthuizen not able to apply the pressure in the final group, Grace pitched his third to eight feet and knew he had the luxury of a two-putt bogey being good enough for victory, although he needed just the one to complete a full set of big titles in his homeland.
It was Grace’s first victory since lifting the Nedbank Golf Challenge trophy in November 2017, and also his fourth European Tour win on home soil which should be enough to lift him back into the top 100 in the world rankings.
Oosthuizen looked lacklustre as he parred his way home for a 68 that could have been several shots better had he not wielded such a cold putter, and he will be left to reflect on what might have been despite putting up a stout defence of his title.