Branden Grace returns to the Nedbank Golf Challenge for the second time, but as a vastly more experienced player than when he made his debut in 2013.
That year, Grace secured his place in the revamped Nedbank Golf Challenge tournament by winning the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit during a spectacular 2012 season for him.
Grace won five times around the world in 2012, with four of those wins coming on the European Tour.
His historic season saw him become the first player in European Tour history to win his first four tournaments in the same year. At the time even Padraig Harrington, when asked who he’d most like to play with in world golf, answered, “Branden Grace. I’d love to know what makes him tick”.
Making it to Sun City was just one of the many rewards he enjoyed. “I grew up watching this tournament over the years and it’s any young South African golfer’s dream to make it into this field, and especially at a time when the tournament is entering such an exciting new era,” he said.
This year he comes back as a golfer now being spoken about as South Africa’s next Major champion.
Grace has had another big year, starting off with his victory in the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters in January.
But it’s in the Majors where he has truly made the greatest strides in 2015. He finished tied fourth in the US Open and third in the PGA Championship. Add in his tied ninth in the World Golf Championship – Cadillac Match Play and tied seventh in the RBC Heritage on the PGA Tour, and Grace has indeed taken the next step up in his career. And it’s been a process in which he has learnt from his experiences and applied these lessons very effectively.
Most notably during 2013 and 2014, when his form didn’t quite match the expectation his 2012 season had created.
“I’ve realised that sometimes it’s ok to go back a few steps before you can go forwards,” said Grace. He felt the same when he lost his European Tour card in 2011 and suddenly found himself back on the European Challenge Tour and facing an uncertain future.
“When I lost my card on the European Tour the first time, I wasn’t actually ready to be on the Tour. I was a good player, but not great. Taking a step back was good for me. I kept believing in myself and kept trying.”
His patience has paid off this year, especially in the Majors where Grace says he has learnt from his good friend Louis Oosthuizen that it’s all about biding your time at this level of the game.
“You never know when it will be your week. I always think of Louis when it comes to that. He never really had Major highlights until the Open at St Andrews. When that happens you just have to take it with both hands.”
And he also says the experience of the past few years has given him a more realistic view of what he can achieve in the game and when.
“A few years ago my goals were too unrealistic. I didn’t understand the process. What I’ve been able to accomplish is phenomenal and yes, it has exceeded my expectations to a point. But this is just the start. My long-term goals are to win Majors and rank inside the top 10. That’s going to take some time, patience and experience. I understand that now.”
Born: 20 May 1988.
Turned pro: 2007.
Special interests: Movies, hunting, reading.
Career highlights: In 2012 he won four times on the European Tour and five times worldwide. That same year he scored a European Tour record-equalling 60 at Kingsbarns in the first round of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. Has won nine times as a professional.
2015 highlights: Started the year strong with a one-stroke victory in the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters on the European Tour in January. Had a watershed year in the Majors and established himself on the PGA Tour.
2015 Majors: The Masters – MC. The US Open – T4. The Open – T20. The PGA Championship – 3.
NGC record: Second appearance. 2013 – T20.