9th November 2017 | Sunshine Tour
Back nine puts Grace into Sun City contention
Following a slow start to his opening round of the Nedbank Golf Challenge hosted by Gary Player, in which he only made a single birdie on the front nine, Branden Grace came back strongly on the homeward stretch to sign for four-under-par 68 to share the second spot on the leaderboard.
“I didn’t really feel like I did something wrong in the first couple of holes,” said Grace of the shots he dropped on the third hole and the par-three fourth. “A disappointing start in that way but it was great playing six-under from there on and with no bogeys on the scorecard after the fourth.”
His back nine was the most eventful on day one as he made birdies on 10, 13 and 15 while an eagle on the par-five 14th just sweetened the deal for the five-time Sunshine Tour winner.
He said he was pleased with his first-round effort at the Gary Player Country Club where he came third last year in the corresponding event. “There was a lot of positive signs,” he said, even as he felt he left a few out there. “I think there’s still a few things I need to improve on, so I’m going to hit the putting green this afternoon.”
The seven-time European Tour winner said he was most pleased to start a tournament on home soil after a year of absence. “For me, coming out and playing an event here at Sun City is extra special because this is one of those you want to play and win. I was disappointed not starting in the BMW SA Open in the beginning of the year but for me coming out here is special.”
While he is one shot off the pace set by the Austrian Bernd Wiesberger who shot five-under 67, Grace is the highest finisher among the nine-man South African contingent competing in what has become known as Africa’s Major.
Charl Schwartzel finished in a share of sixth with Japan’s Hideto Tanihara, the defending champion Alex Noren and the BMW SA Open Championship winner Graeme Storm on three-under 69.
Darren Fichardt – who was a last-minute replacement for Anthony Wall of England – as well as Louis Oosthuizen started their rounds well as they were among the leaders in the first five holes, slipped back to a share of 22nd on one-under in perfect weather conditions in Sun City.