Grace continues to lead

10/6/2012 12:16:54 PM
Branden Grace  (Getty Images)
Branden Grace (Getty Images)
Branden Grace continued to motor towards a fourth European Tour title of the season as the third round of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship began.

Five clear overnight but with the most difficult of the three courses used this week to come in Carnoustie, Grace birdied the second and fourth to reach an incredible 19 under and stretch his advantage over Dane Thorbjørn Olesen to six.

The South African’s story is one of the most remarkable ones of this golfing year.

Victory at St Andrews tomorrow would give the 24 year old an amazing fifth title of the year - he won on the Sunshine Tour last week - and this by a player who under a year ago was outside the Official World Golf Ranking's top 300, was preparing himself for a fifth successive visit to Qualifying School and in nearly 50 events on The European Tour had never had a top three finish.

Now he is in the OWGR's top 50 and even has a chance still to deny Rory McIlroy The Race to Dubai.

Grace, round in a Tour record-equalling 60 at Kingsbarns on Thursday, added a 67 at the Home of Golf yesterday for a 17 under par halfway total.

That was only one outside The European Tour's lowest-ever 36-hole score set by compatriot Ernie Els at Royal Melbourne in 2004.

The Pretoria player had already won back-to-back once this season and, having tasted more success in his home country last Sunday, said: "I just don't really know what's going on.

"I love the feeling of winning and I know that's what I want. I'm still just running with it.

"Where I was a year ago crosses my mind a bit. People remind me of it and I really have to sit down and think of what I've achieved and how fortunate I am to be in this position in my career."

Grace had only his second bogey of the week on the 478 yard ninth and his lead was down to three.

That was because Olesen hit back from a dropped shot at the fifth with birdies at the next two, while Anton Haig made a brilliant start to the back nine at Carnoustie to join him on 15 under.

The former Johnnie Walker Classic winner, who has battled back from a back injury that even led to him announcing his retirement from the sport last November, eagled the 12th and birdied the tenth and 14th.

Going even better at Kingsbarns was Swede Alex Noren, who had an eagle and four birdies in the first seven to move into fourth spot at 14 under. 

Grace was back in firm control after he birdied the long 12th and 176 yard next.

At 20 under his advantage was back up to five over Olesen and Noren, with Haig and Thailand's Thongchai Jaidee one further back.

Grace suddenly gave the chasing pack hope when he double-bogeyed the 15th, and with Olesen grabbing birdies at the 14th and 16th, the gap was suddenly down to two.