28th April 2019 | Sunshine Tour
Grace and Harding just keep on rolling
From the PGA Tour
Branden Grace wanted to make something very clear – he’s actually younger than Justin Harding, his partner this week at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
Evidently, there’s a perception that Grace, who turns 31 next month, is the grizzled veteran compared to the boyish-looking Harding, who turned 33 in February.
“I just want to state that,” Grace said. “A lot of people are asking me. He seems too young.”
And so is their partnership that’s in prime contention entering Sunday’s final round of Foursomes at TPC Louisiana. A third-round 61 in Four-balls (the low score of the round) moved them to 22 under, just one shot off the lead shared by Jon Rahm/Ryan Palmer and Scott Stallings/Trey Mullinax.
Although the two South Africans have known each other for many years, having played against each other as juniors, this week is the first time they’ve competed with each other.
Grace, of course, has teamed with Louis Oosthuizen as one of the International Team’s most productive duos at the Presidents Cup. Harding, meanwhile, has never made a Presidents Cup team, and is making his first start at the Zurich Classic, as he plays mostly on the European Tour.
“This might be the first time we’ve actually played together as a team or as a partnership,” Harding said. “We tend to play against each other more.”
Grace and Ooosthuizen were partners at TPC Louisiana in 2017, finishing T-24. They were supposed to play together last year, but Grace withdrew to be his wife as she delivered their first child.
This year, Oosthuizen played another South African star, Charl Schwartzel, thus leaving Grace with Harding. While Oosthuizen-Schwartzel missed the cut, Grace-Harding have a chance to win with a big showing in Sunday’s Foursomes.
“I got fired, so I had to look for a new partner,” Grace joked. “Obviously I made a good pick.”
So why has it worked with this first-time duo? Well, obviously the talent is there. So is the South African kinship and camaraderie.
“Look, both of our games are similar. We’re a good match,” Harding said. “We like to keep each other quite jovial out there on the golf course, lots of jokes and some banter – which probably shouldn’t be shared – but it’s good fun.”
Added Grace: “He’s a better putter than I am. I get streaky but he is definitely better. We have fun out there. We give each other hell, as well, and we take it the right way.”
It’s obviously working this week – and it’ll likely give International Team Captain Ernie Els something to think about in December when he decides on his pairings at Royal Melbourne.
Of all the partnerships involving players from International Team countries, Grace-Harding have by far been the best. For once, they’re finally on the same side of the battle.