Grace evades clutches of Bear Trap

Branden Grace grabbed his opportunities around the notorious ‘Bear Trap’ at the PGA National Champion Course in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida to move into a share of second in the first round of the Honda Classic.

The tough three-hole stretch from the 15th to the 17th has become known as the Bear Trap after Jack Nicklaus redesigned the course in 1981. Known as the ‘Golden Bear’, Nicklaus left his ‘footprint’ behind on what he considered to be these ‘three great finishing holes on the PGA Tour.’

“That stretch is about precision,” Nicklaus has said. “That stretch is about guts.”

And Grace took it in his stride: “Obviously finishing with four birdies in a row was great,” he said. “You won’t think of making that any day on this golf course, but like I said, I gave myself chances and the putter just heated up.”

The South African trailed first-round leader Camilo Villegas by one, and shared second with Canada’s Graeme DeLaet, and Americans Ricky Fowler and Robert Streb. There were 10 players a further stroke back, including Lee Westwood and Dustin Johnson.

Louis Oosthuizen, Rory Sabbatini and Ernie Els were on one-under after the first round, while Charl Schwartzel was on level-par together with Tiger Woods and world number one Rory McIlroy. Retief Goosen was two-over, with Trevor Immelman on three.

Grace followed his birdies on the Bear Trap with a birdie on 18, too, and sat down with the media afterwards to discuss his future in the US.

“I’m playing next week, and then I’m going to take a week off,” he said. “I’m going to do the Arnold Palmer and then hoping to get a spot for Houston and then take a week off, do the Masters. Then I’m going to take a three-week break after that and stick around in the States, maybe just head out and explore a little bit.”

For now, exploring the top of the leader board seems to be keeping him occupied.

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