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Sunday, 15 January 2012
Branden Grace  (Getty Images)
Branden Grace (Getty Images)

Branden Grace was left to revel in how sweet the sound of victory after winning his first European Tour title at the Joburg Open.

The 23 year old Qualifying School graduate from South Africa came through many dangers, toils and snares at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club to sign for a final round 72 and 17 under total.

That was one better than Jamie Elson, who a month after holing a 40 foot birdie putt on the final green at Qualifying School to secure a European Tour card, almost snatched a first victory with a 30 foot eagle putt at the 18th.

The 30 year old had earlier enjoyed six birdies in his first eight holes, and signed for a best-of the-day 63.

With none of the players in the leading groups making any significant moves in the final round, Grace was able to secure victory with 16 pars, a solitary bogey and one birdie.

“It’s a dream come true,” said Grace. “It’s nice to win in front of a home crowd and I wouldn’t exchange it for anything else.

“It was pretty tough out there today. I played really nicely, I hit the ball superb I think, and the putter was just cold – I couldn’t get the speed of the greens going today. Fortunately at the end of the day it was enough.

“I think there was one big key today, Zack [Rasego] on the bag kept me calm throughout the whole day so big thanks to him.”

Grace returned to the course early in the morning with three holes of his third round to complete after lengthy thunderstorm delays on the first two days.

Full of confidence after birdieing his last three holes before another storm halted play on Saturday, and starting the day level with England’s Richard Finch, Grace was three clear ahead of the final round.

While Finch bogeyed the 17th, Grace birdied the last two holes to establish a lead he would never relinquish.

He almost became lost with a bogey at the second when the final round began, particularly with Finch birdieing the opening hole to move within one, but found his composure to birdie the ninth to turn in a level par 37.

Finch’s challenge unravelled with three-putts at the fifth and sixth as the former Irish Open winner signed for a 78, while George Coetzee, who started the closing round level with Finch, never fully recovered from three birdies in his first four holes.

Elson had already set the clubhouse target at 16 under when Grace reached the turn, and the South African managed the requisite pars on every hole of the back nine.

There was a slight wobble at the last when his pitch finished 40 feet from the flag, but Grace’s fears were relieved when he rolled the ball to within 18 inches for a simple tap-in finish.

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