Under piercing blue skies for the fourth day running, South Africa’s Branden Grace began his historic bid to triumph at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship and become the first player to win four times the year after graduation from Qualifying School.
Beginning with a four shot lead after Fredrik Andersson-Hed had started with a birdie at the par four first in the group ahead, Grace – playing alongside Danish 22 year old Thorbjørn Olesen – struck a pegged-down three wood straight down the middle, a low, stinging effort that rode the gentle left to right wind to finish in position A on the Old Course’s opening hole.
Grace, who played some incredible golf over the first three days at Kingsbarns, St Andrews and Carnoustie to build a formidable lead with 18 holes to play over the Fife Links, has the opportunity to create multiple entries in the history books today should he triumph over the chasing pack and claim the 12th Dunhill Links Championship.
The 24 year old would also become the first player in European Tour history to win his first four events in the same season and would join a select band of nine illustrious Tour Members to record four or more official events in the same season.
Seve Ballesteros (1978, 85, 86, 88), Ernie Els (2003), Sir Nick Faldo (1983, 92), Miguel Angel Jiménez (2004), Martin Kaymer (2010), Bernhard Langer (1984, 97), Colin Montgomerie (1999), Lee Westwood (1998, 2000) and Ian Woosnam (1987, 90, 96), all completed the same feat so the Pretoria man would be in esteemed company should he succeed.
Olesen, meanwhile, is looking for his second European Tour victory after capturing the Sicilian Open earlier this year.
With a chill in the air but conditions still bright and glorious, as they have been all week, Grace continued his imperious form to birdie the first hole and immediately extend his lead back to five shots as Olesen made par.
An intriguing afternoon across the Home of Golf’s Old Course awaits.