13th June 2017 | Sunshine Tour
Can Grace make it third time lucky?
He doesn’t have everyone’s idea of a perfect swing, and, when he putts, things look very uncomfortable for Branden Grace. But his recent record at the US Open makes him one to watch very closely this week at Erin Hills.
Having come so close to victory at Chambers Bay in 2015, when a late double-bogey proved costly, Grace has still made himself something of an event specialist in the US Open over the last two years after also finishing tied fifth at Oakmont 12 months ago.
He has had plenty of success on windswept, firm and fast layouts in the past, too – think the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship win in 2012 and a Commercial Bank Qatar Masters double in 2015 and 2016 – so Erin Hills could be a neat fit.
It was really a single wayward shot which cost him his shot at Chambers Bay – his tee shot off 13 went scuttling onto the railway line to the right, and that let the eventual champion Jordan Spieth slip from his clutches. He finished in a share of fourth, and, a year later, he was in a share of fifth behind Dustin Johnson’s three-stroke victory.
When those two performances are taken in conjunction with his third-place finish in the 2015 PGA Championship, and his share of fourth a year later in the last major of the year, it’s clear that something about majors in the United States suits Grace.
The exception, of course, is the Masters, where he missed three consecutive cuts, before grinding his way to a share of 27th this year behind Sergio Garcia’s thrilling win over Justin Rose.
Grace’s form has been trending in the right direction of late as well, with three finishes of 11th or better in his last four worldwide starts, most recently a tied ninth at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth Club.
He will want to put two things from that most recent finish behind him: The rules kerfuffle when he asked for – and was granted – relief from a plugged lie in a bunker because, in taking his stance, his shoe worked its way down to the artificial base of the bunker; and the unexpected implosion in the final round just as he reached the home stretch and should have been pressing for the victory.
But he’s a mentally resilient character, and he will use those experiences to strengthen him as he seeks to extend his run of good play at the US Open.
Third time’s the charm?