His Major record for 2015 shows a missed cut, a share a fourth, a share of 20th and third, and the golfing world has been served notice that Branden Grace will be a contender in the Majors for years to come.
He finished five strokes back in third at 15-under-par behind the victorious Jason Day in the PGA Championship, with the new world number one Jordan Spieth claiming that spot with his second-place finish, three off the record-setting 20-under-par carved out by the phenomenal performance by the Australian.
“I’m getting closer in the Majors, which I want to do,” said Grace. “I feel that the game is keeping up and the standard of golf that I’m playing is showing. And I don’t have to step down for these guys.”
His reward – besides the satisfaction of knowing he belongs in the rarefied company of the world’s best players – was his own little climb in the Official World Golf Rankings to 20th, just seven spots behind the top-ranked South African player, 2010 Open champion Louis Oosthuizen.
The sense of belonging is a critical contributor to why he has had such a good year: “I think you just kind of relax as you go into the Major weeks now,” he said. “I just told my caddie Zach [Rasego] as we were walking up 18, it’s amazing how these weeks turn out. My first two rounds of golf weren’t spectacular at all and I just grinded away and look where I finished up.”
He needed to grind on the back nine on Sunday after a pushed tee shot on the 10th left him with a lie a contender for a Major would rather not have to deal with. The resultant double-bogey on 10, a bogey on 15 and a missed three-footer for birdie on 16 cost him four shot which would have at least have put him in the same postal code as the rampant Day down the stretch, and that could have caused the Aussie some undesirable pressure.
“I made a couple of silly mistakes around the turn,” said Grace. “That disappointing double bogey on the 10 got me back, too far back.
“Jason was just a tough competitor this week. He played some marvellous golf and I don’t think anybody would have caught him this week. But if those silly mistakes weren’t in there, you never know what could have been at the finish.”
His year – with two wins on the European Tour and in the Dimension Data Pro-Am on the Sunshine Tour to go with his Major performances – is already a success. He can relax and chase victories wherever he chooses now, and get himself up for a renewed attempt to unlock the door to a Major victory next year.
“This year after Augusta, my approach to the Majors been a lot quieter,” he said. “I’ve been much more relaxed and I’m just taking it as it comes, really. Play maybe one, maybe two practice days and just go with it. And I think that’s been a key to getting to where I am.”
His knocking on the door is starting to be incessant now. He has to believe it will open soon.