Grace on course for maiden title

1/15/2012 11:08:29 AM
Branden Grace  (Getty Images)
Branden Grace (Getty Images)
South Africa’s Branden Grace was two shots clear of the chasing pack as the final round of the Joburg Open unfolded.

After lengthy weather delays on the first two days, the third round still had to be completed when the players returned to Royal Johannesburg and Kensington’s East Course.

Level with England’s Richard Finch overnight, Grace – who birdied his last three holes before a storm halted play on Saturday night – picked up shots at the 17th and 18th for a 65.

That was enough for a three shot lead as Finch bogeyed the 17th to start the final round level with George Coetzee.

The 23 year old Qualifying School graduate Grace found the going tough over the first six holes, his only deviation from par coming with a bogey at the second to lead on 16 under.

But none of the other leading contenders were able to make a significant move, Finch three-putting the fifth and sixth to remain rooted on 14 under.

He had been joined by Scot Marc Warren, who turned in a four under 33, South African Michiel Bothma and Canadian Andrew Parr.

The biggest final round move came from first round leader Jamie Elson, who picked up six birdies in his first eight holes and with four to play was 13 under for the week.

Seven straight pars looked to have ended Elson’s hopes of victory, but having holed a 40 foot birdie putt on the final green at Qualifying School to earn his European Tour card, the 30 year old holed a 30 footer for eagle on the last to set the clubhouse target at 16 under with a magnificent 63.

Grace’s first birdie of the final round came at the ninth to keep him one ahead, while Parr and Bothma were two back as the leaders tackled the back nine.