Branden emerging as SA’s top player

PHe became South Africa’s second-highest ranked player in the world over the weekend without wielding a club in anger, and Branden Grace goes into this week’s BMW PGA Championship on the European Tour with a chance of getting closer to being the best.

As Charl Schwartzel slipped two positions on the Official World Golf Rankings to 40th, Grace retained his 39th spot, just 13 off the top-ranked South African Louis Oosthuizen in 26th.

And with a stellar field gathered for the European Tour’s flagship event with its record €5-million prize fund at Wentworth just outside London – including a fabulously in-form world number one Rory McIlroy – a decent performance by Grace would net him a nice haul of world ranking points to solidify a year on the international stage which already includes two victories.

There are nine major champions who have accrued no fewer than 18 majors between them. McIlroy, Justin Rose, Martin Kaymer and Graeme McDowell can all lay claim to the US Open title between 2010 and 2014. Paul Lawrie, Padraig Harrington and Darren Clarke preceded McIlroy as proud holders of the Claret Jug; Ernie Els has four major titles to his name and YE Yang one.

Grace took the Alfred Dunhill Championship on home soil back in mid-December, and followed that up with the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters just over a month later to see him comfortable in fifth spot on the Race to Dubai after eight events.

He’s attempting to bed himself down on the lucrative PGA Tour in the United States, and his best performance on that circuit this season came in April’s RBC Heritage, where he finished in a share of seventh in one of his seven starts on that tour.

Grace is one of 11 South Africans in the field, with Jake Roos just two withdrawals away from make it an even dozen. The others are Ernie Els, Hennie Otto, Thomas Aiken, Dawie van der Walt, George Coetzee, Trevor Fisher Jnr, Garth Mulroy, Darren Fichardt, Jbe’ Kruger and Jaco van Zyl.


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