With an eye to start 2014 well, Grace will head to Durban Country Club for this week’s Volvo Golf Champions tournament. His affinity for the title sponsor will make the drive to do well that much stronger.
“I don't know what it is, but Volvo keep choosing golf courses I like playing,” he said. “And when they choose courses I haven’t played, I like them by the end of the week.
At 25 years old, Grace is maturing into the lifestyle of the cross-Atlantic professional. He spent the majority of 2013 adjusting to the majors and preparing to take the next step up, which is a big step when you’ve won four European events in one season.
“Last year was a tough year,” he said. “Obviously, you know, not just for myself, but any player would have struggled having the year that I had in 2012; to come out and really just be the same. So last year was a lot of firsts for me again. I feel like I found my feet in 2012 and then you come into 2013, and now you're playing in bigger tournaments in The States.
“The States is a little bit different but now I know what it's like to play there and what to expect and what not to expect. I'm really looking forward and the goals are more on not just performances but the Majors and the WGC’s. Those are some events that I really want to put a key on.”
Primed for the 2014 season and well rested after the Christmas break, Grace will treat this week’s $4-million tournament as an examination of his readiness for the new year.
“This event is a great way to start the year, and I had a good week last year. This year with the heat, it's going to play a lot firmer and faster and I'm sure by Thursday it's going to be something completely different to what we expect.”
With a mere 36 competitors and no cut, the Volvo Golf Champions gives Europe’s best a headstart into the season, but they’ve earned the privilege. The standard eligibility criteria is that a player must win on the previous European Tour season, but Grace gets a spot as a former champion, courtesy of his 2012 victory at Fancourt.
“It's just nice to start the year off that you can play four rounds and you can work on things.
Grace played his way to a share of seventh at the ‘tournament of champions’ last year and will aim for another good result this week, but America is lingering in the back of his mind.
“You play in so many countries, there's a lot to deal with, different languages, different golf courses. There's not one golf course that's the same out there. Hopefully when I get back over there now, I know what to expect and I can just give it a go a little bit more,” he said.