IF YESTERDAY’S THIRD round raised questions about Branden Grace’s competitive resilience, his performance in the final round of the Volvo Golf Champions ended the debate in memorable fashion.
After beginning the day in a tie for the lead with mercurial Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts, the South African wasted little time in ceding the initiative to compatriots Retief Goosen and Charl Schwartzel. A double-bogey at the strong par-4 third was followed immediately by another dropped shot, enough to send his name tumbling down the leaderboard to the very periphery of contention.
Shocked out of the self-consciousness that had hindered his play since assuming the lead late on Friday evening, Grace covered the final 14 holes in five-under-par. A regulation five at the last proved enough to secure a berth alongside occasional Fancourt resident Ernie Els, who had stormed through the field with a six-under-par 67, and two-time US Open champion Retief Goosen (70) in a play-off to decide the tournament’s outcome.
Undaunted by the presence of his childhood idols, Grace two-putted for birdie at the first extra hole, and in doing so, claimed his second European Tour title in as many weeks.
Nicolas Colsaerts (72), who bogeyed the last to fall a shot shy of the play-off, finished in sole possession of fourth place, a shot clear of 2011 Masters champion Charl Schwartzel (72).
Ireland’s major-winning representatives, Padraig Harrington and Darren Clarke, enjoyed a less lucrative start to their 2012 campaign, closing with a pair of three-over-par 76s to finish in 10th and 20th place, respectively.