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Amazing Grace back on top on home soil

Amazing Grace back on top on home soil

Branden Grace produced a masterful putting display in a closing 62 to hold off defending champion Louis Oosthuizen and win the South African Open hosted by the City of Johannesburg.

Branden Grace

The home duo could not be separated at the turn as they put on a stunning show, with Oosthuizen sending the huge crowds at Randpark Golf Club into raptures with a hole-in-one at the eighth.

But Grace put his foot down on the way home, taking his tally of putts to just 22 as he finished at 21 under, three shots clear of Oosthuizen.

The victory secured Grace a place at this summer's Open Championship, where he will be joined by fellow qualifiers Marcus Armitage and Jaco Ahlers.

Englishman Armitage birdied the last to finish at 16 under and secure his spot at Royal St George's Golf Club, with home favourite Ahlers a shot behind alongside Jack Senior, who was edged out for The Open spot by virtue of being eight places lower than Ahlers on the Official World Golf Ranking.

Grace finished 113th on last season's Race to Dubai after being in the top ten for four of the previous seven seasons but showed a return to form at last month's Alfred Dunhill Championship with a tie for third.

His ninth European Tour victory is his first since his Rolex Series triumph at the 2017 Nedbank Golf Challenge hosted by Gary Player and sees him complete his set of the biggest trophies in South African golf after also winning the Joburg Open, Alfred Dunhill Championship and Dimension Data Pro-Am.

"That was remarkable," he said. "I played flawless golf and I can't remember the last time the putter was that hot.

"This is the one I really wanted. This means so much to any South African, winning on home soil, the guys get so behind you and it's such an emotional feeling.

"It's the first win with the little one here so he's going to have a photo with the trophy and then it's a good birthday wish to my Mrs today, she's a birthday girl today so it's a good birthday present."

Grace bogeyed the second but hit back brilliantly, making a gain on the next after a wonderful approach from the rough, eagling the fourth from 25 feet and making another birdie on the fifth from slightly closer range.

The 31-year-old was in a tie for the lead when Armitage three putted the sixth and he hit the front with a 15 foot right to lefter on the seventh.

An excellent up and down on the next kept his nose in front but he was soon leapfrogged by Oosthuizen as the 2010 Open Champion produced the highlight of the week.

After seven straight pars, his tee shot looked to be heading right and towards the water but it came back, took a big hop left off the fringe and rolled into the cup for the second ace of the season.

A 25 foot right to lefter on the ninth had Grace back level and he led on his own after a stunning recovery from the rough on the 11th.

A wonderful approach brought Oosthuizen level on the same hole but Grace found another gear, sandwiching a birdie from 12 feet on the 13th with gains on the par five 12th and 14th to lead by three.

Armitage's closing gain handed him a round of 69, a score matched by Ahlers, while England's Senior went two better.

Amateur Jayden Trey Schaper, 18, chipped in at the last to end a remarkable week at 13 under alongside fellow South Africans George Coetzee, Hennie du Plessis, JC Ritchie and Martin Rohwer, and English 2015 champion Andy Sullivan.

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