Grace holds off Elson at Joburg Open
BY Bruce Young | European PGA Tour | 2012 The Joburg Open | Wrap | 16 Jan 2012
South African, Branden Grace, became a first time winner on the European Tour with a narrow one shot victory over England’s Jamie Elson at the Joburg Open at the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club in Johannesburg.
Grace regained his European Tour playing privileges last December at the Tour School after a season on the Challenge Tour had left him just short of the top twenty who graduated to the European Tour.
The 23 year old previously played the European Tour in 2009 but has spent the last two years plying his trade on the Challenge Tour trying to play his way back to the bigger stage.
Today he faced challenges from several players during his final round but none more so than the one from Jamie Elson who produced a stunning final round of 63 to set the clubhouse mark 90 minutes ahead of Grace.
Elson holed a lengthy putt at the 16th for birdie to move within three of the leader but when he holed from shorter range for eagle at the final hole he was within one. Grace then needed to hold on over the final seven holes to take the title and he was able to do so although given what such a victory would do for his career it would not have been easy.
Grace had been required to return to the golf course early on Sunday to complete his third round after weather had again disrupted proceedings. He had birdied his final three holes on Saturday before being forced from the course with three holes still to play and when he returned on Sunday he birdied two of his last three holes.
That strong finish gave him a three shot lead heading into the final day and although he did not relinquish the lead he was under fire from several players before his rock steady back nine saw him home as the winner.
Amongst the more fancied chances leading into the tournament, Retief Goosen was the best, finishing in 16th position, while the pre tournament favourite, Charl Schwartzel, surprisingly missed the cut when attempting to win the event for the third consecutive year.
Like Grace, Elson is a recruit from last year’s Tour School only just regaining his card there. The 30 year old played the European Tour earlier in his career after playing collegiate golf in the US and representing the UK in a successful Walker Cup team.
Daniel Gaunt was one of two Australians in the field but the only one to make the cut when he finished 32nd.
The European Tour now moves to the Fancourt Links in George for this week’s Volvo Golf Champions event an event being played for the second occasion after being held in Bahrain in 2011.
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