Grace targets historic double

9/25/2013 2:30:00 PM
Branden Grace  (Getty Images)
Branden Grace (Getty Images)
Branden Grace hopes he can replicate the biggest win of his career when he defends his Alfred Dunhill Links Championship this week in Scotland.

The South African won four European Tour titles in an incredible 2012, but it was in the three-course event over St Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns that Grace gained his largest payday.

History is against the World Number 36 winning again on Sunday - nobody has ever retained the title at the Home of Golf - but Grace is keen to buck that trend as he looks to post another strong finish on The Race to Dubai.

Having finished sixth last year, Grace finds himself in the same position with seven events to go this season, despite not adding to his trophy haul yet.

A runner-up finish to Phil Mickelson in Scotland, allied with strong finishes in the Middle East and at the Volvo World Match Play Championship, have given the 25 year old enjoy another impressive season.

“This was the cherry on top of the cake,” Grace said of his win 12 months ago. “I would like to think that was my biggest victory to date, one of my best ones.

“Just the way I performed, the way I played, and everything up to that. And what a way to finish it and to grab it at the Old Course. 

“This one really put me on the map and showed that I can compete against some of the best in the world. It really put me up in the World Rankings also. That was the big key for me. 

“I'd like to think that the links courses like me a little bit, so I can really push on again this week and try to compete again and maybe be the first one to defend the title.

“For me, this is one of the events of the year that I really want to play, and not just because I won it last year. I've always looked forward coming back here. 

“I feel really confident. Like I said, links courses, I like them. They have treated me well this year and in the past, and I had a couple of practice rounds yesterday and the day before. I feel that the game is in good shape. I need one of those rounds where the putter gets hot like at Kingsbarns last year and I shoot a low number.”

While Grace has high hopes this week, his compatriot Louis Oosthuizen is eager just to complete the event unscathed after a year beset by injuries.

The former Open Champion, who like Grace knows how to win at St Andrews, has not played since Muirfield due to neck and leg problems.

“I'm definitely not 100 per cent,” said Oosthuizen. “I'm in playable mode; I can play without any pain. 

“It's still going to take a little bit of time to get everything 100 per cent but I feel good.

“I struggled with an old neck injury that I got in 2005, a whiplash injury. It came back at the beginning of the year and made me swing quite differently. At the US Open, I was probably just trying to swing a lot differently out of the rough, I hurt a muscle in my leg and then just couldn't walk properly. 

“I got to The Open and could only play eight holes and then had to withdraw. It wasn't my type of day walking the golf course, especially in a big tournament like The Open, but I knew the future was at stake, so took some time off to get that right. 

“I rested for a few weeks and then went to rehab treatments and did some really good work, work that you can't do while you're playing golf tournaments, so it was a good time to do those things.”