Outside of the majors, the Players’ Championship boasts the best field in golf. Whether that justifies its self-granted ‘fifth major’ title is debatable, but that won’t stop Branden Grace giving it his best shot this week.
With a win on the PGA Tour finally under his belt in his second season on the circuit – he took the RBC Heritage title on April 14 – the world number 11 is heading into major season looking for a performance that tells him he will be ready to reproduce the form which took him so close in the US Open last year, and had him pretty much the ‘best of the rest’ in the PGA Championship.
“The majors are big things,” said Grace. “But, like I said earlier, people don’t remember the thirds and fourths, they only remember the wins. I really wanted to get that first win over in the United States and this is great now.”
So it is that he tees it up at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra, Florida with the world’s top 10 ranged against him, and he finds himself part of the conversation when it comes to sifting out potential winners of the $1.8-million winner’s share of the $10,5-million purse.
He comes into the tournament that was won in 2010 by Tim Clark with some form too: He finished inside the top 10 in the Valero Texas Open in his last start in the PGA Tour, and he comes with a newly-reinforced sense of belonging in the elite company of the likes of Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Rory McIlroy and defending champion Rickie Fowler.
“I’ve been playing well, and if I could just get to put all the aspects of my game together then I knew it might happen sooner than I think,” he said of his ascension into the top flight of the game.
He is joined during this tournament by fellow-South Africans Louis Oosthuizen, Ernie Els and Retief Goosen. Charl Schwartzel has opted not to play, even though he had a PGA Tour win back in March in the Valspar Championship.