While it is probably not the most accurate reflection of the state of the game, no world number one – former or current – was able to match the peerless Branden Grace’s 5-0-0 showing during last week’s Presidents Cup.
His five victories in five matches – four with Louis Oosthuizen – was a rare-enough feat in Presidents Cup history. He was just the fifth player in Presidents Cup history, and the second International player, to win all five matches. Mark O’Meara in 1996, Tiger Woods in 2009 and Jim Furyk in 2011 did so for the United States, while Shigeki Maruyama of Japan won all five matches in 1998 for the Internationals.
And that completely eclipsed the performances of current world number one Jordan Spieth (3-2-0) and former number ones Jason Day (0-4-1) and Adam Scott (1-2-2).
Perhaps it’s time to evaluate Grace’s place in the golfing world order again, especially after that Korean steamroller effort which has added to the lustre of a year in which he nearly won two majors.
Okay, it goes without saying that Spieth’s year makes him the best golfer in the world, but Grace’s share of fourth in the US Open and third place in the PGA Championship, as well as his best-ever finish of tied-20th in The Open Championship, clearly indicate he is playing in lofty company. Two wins – three, if you count last December’s Alfred Dunhill Championship, co-sanctioned by the Sunshine Tour and The European Tour, and which counted for the 2015 Race to Dubai – merely burnish that record for the year a little further.
In the Presidents Cup, he was better than Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson, Zach Johnson, Oosthuizen, Hideki Matsuyama, Matt Kuchar, Jimmy Walker, JB Holmes and Patrick Reed – those are all players ranked above him in the Official World Golf Rankings. And the list doesn’t include the number ones who weren’t able to hold a candle to his stellar play. Or even Phil Mickelson, the US Team’s captain’s pick who was notable for some brilliant shots, quirky handshakes and the offering of his expanding girth for lucky rubs by his teammates.
So what should we make of Grace? For even American golf writers are starting to take note, and they are notoriously one-eyed, especially if, as is the case with Grace, the player has yet to win on the pitch-and-putt courses so often on offer on the PGA Tour. Said Mark Godich, Sports Illustrated senior editor, “Say hello to Branden Grace. The 27-year-old showed he deserves a spot at the young-guns table along with Jordan, Jason, Rory, et al.” And Michael Bamberger, senior writer for the same publication chimed in: “Grace! The most underrated player in all of golfdom. Could have won a US Open if he could take back one hole, and maybe someday he will.”
That means South African fans have an heir to the pedigreed bloodline which runs from Bobby Locke through Gary Player, Ernie Els and Retief Goosen to Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel.
Grace may not have a major championship to his name yet. But grabbing the opportunity to watch him in action when he returns to play in South Africa is something every golf fan should do. It will make for some riveting summer viewing.