Branden Grace shot an opening round of six-under 66 to finish in a tie for third on Thrsday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship on the European Tour. With the first event of the desert swing underway, Grace and his caddie Zach Rasego feel right at home in the Middle East.
Grace said, “Yeah, I love it. I love this place. It’s always nice to come back. Zach and I spoke earlier in the week and he said this is his favourite course in the world.”
With the Abu Dhabi Golf Club being a 7,600 yard test from tee-to-green, past champions have always been prolific strikers of the ball, and Grace knows what’s needed to succeed on the challenging layout.
He said, “Ball-striking coming into the week wasn’t the best, so you know, I did a lot of work on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, trying to get the game in decent shape. On a golf course like this, anything from four and better under is a great score. The rough is thick and you just need to know where to miss it and I think I’ve done that well today.”
Something which Grace has done differently coming into the start of the season, is play back home in South Africa. The start of the year is generally a time in which he takes time off and recoups, however Grace decided to play in his national open. Finishing in a tie for fourth, he says he’s feeling confident going forward. “Sometimes you prefer having those two weeks off, but it’s nice. It’s always nice to play back home and get things going. When you have a top five in your first week, you always feel a little bit confident coming into these. So it’s been good so far.”