He broke into the top 30 in the Official World Golf Rankings after his performance in the US Open, and Branden Grace hasn’t been outside that elite list of players since as he heads into this week’s PGA Championship at Whistling Straits tomorrow.
And, bar a missed cut in the Travelers Championship a week later after a 77 in the second round there, he’s not missed a position inside the top 20 in the tournaments he’s played since then.
It was really just one wayward drive in the US Open in the final stretch which saw him slip out of a position from which he could have won and stopped the Jordan Spieth Grand Slam conversation in its tracks.
It was on the tough US Open set up at Chambers Bay that Grace confirmed the impression that he revels in the vagaries of links golf and golf on courses that try to emulate the great links courses of Scotland. Of course, his home course is arguably South Africa’s toughest at The Links at Fancourt, and he has won the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on the European Tour too, so there is evidence already that he should be in the frame again in the year’s final major.
He missed the cut the first two times he played the PGA Championship in 2012 and 2013, but he made it to the weekend in last year’s thriller won by Rory McIlroy, and ended up in a share of 46th – not at the sharp end, but given his play in 2015, he’s certainly a different proposition this time around.
Especially so since he has shown his major mettle in the US Open and survived the insanely tough weather conditions at St Andrews in this year’s Open Championship to close with a final-round 67 which got him into the top 20.
He has clearly grown into his position in the world’s elite golfers, and, while his share of 17th in last week’s World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational doesn’t inspire much confidence at first blush, it’s worth remembering that since that tournament began preceding the PGA Championship eight years ago, all eight winners of the major had finished inside the top 22 at Firestone the week before.