Branden Grace (Getty Images)
Branden Grace was holding firm with his three shot lead when the final round of the Volvo China Open began at Binhai Lake.
The 23 year old, already a two-time winner on The European Tour this season after graduating Qualifying School in the winter, had raced into a three shot lead over defending champion Nicolas Colsaerts with a sublime third round 64.
The South African’s first shot on returning to the course was not a good one, but he holed a 15 foot par putt at the first to atone for his wayward drive.
Colsaerts applied some pressure when he splashed out of the bunker at the second to three feet to set up a birdie putt, but Grace followed him in from two feet.
Both Grace and Belgium’s Colsaerts parred the third, meaning Africa Open champion Grace still led by three on 19 under par.
Paraguay’s Fabrizio Zanotti, third on his own overnight, had been joined despite birdieing the second.
That was because Grace’s compatriot and Avantha Masters winner Jbe Kruger kicked off with an outward 31 – the highlight an 18 foot birdie putt at the fourth – before picking up another shot at the 12th to be six under for the day.
Another poor drive from Grace at the fourth saw him drop a shot, but he birdied the long sixth and struck his approach to five feet for another gain at the seventh.
Colsaerts matched the birdie at the seventh, and closed the gap to two by the turn with another at the ninth.
Sweden’s Alex Noren, coming off the back of his best-of-the-week 63 in the third round, was three under through ten to sit third on 16 under – four off the pace.
Colsaerts dropped a shot at the tenth, and Grace looked odds on to become only the second Qualifying School graduate to win three times in his maiden season when he birdied the 12th from five feet. The first was Sweden’s Johan Edfors in 2006.