6th December 2018 | Sunshine Tour
Grace out to take care of ‘ranking problem’
Branden Grace slipped two places to 50th in the Official World Golf Ranking this week, and he’s looking for a good performance in the South African Open Championship hosted by City of Joburg to arrest a slide which could see him battling for a spot in the Masters.
Grace, who was runner-up to England’s Chris Paisley in the last SA Open which was played in January at Glendower, started the year in 30th spot, has a career-high ranking of 10th after he finished fourth in the 2016 PGA Championship, and, despite a consistent 2018 around the world, finds himself eyeing distastefully the possibility of being outside the top 50 for just the second time in over six years.
“Staying in the top 50 is obviously a goal,” he said. “I’d be quite disappointed to fall out of the top 50. The game feels in good enough shape that I can be victorious at the end of the week. Something like that will take care of the ranking problem.
“I know that if I have a good week this week, then I’m going to be in the top 50 at the end of the year and I can tick off playing at Augusta and those kinds of things. I’m playing next week (at Alfred Dunhill Championship), so I’ve got two weeks. I’ll let the golf do the talking. I feel I’m playing well enough and I’ve put in a lot of hours over the last couple of weeks and months, so it’s that one round that’s going to tell me how it’s gone.”
Grace’s last victory came in the 2017 Nedbank Golf Challenge, and after that, he was ranked 29th in the world. He got his ranking down to 27th twice since then, but after the second week at 27, it’s been a slow decline despite a season which included four top-10s, three more top-20s, and just two missed cuts.
His second in January’s SA Open at Glendower saw him to 28th that week, so he knows how much a win can do for his ranking – as well as his game generally.
And being back in South Africa is like playing with an extra club in the bag. “It’s great to be back in South Africa and playing in front of the home fans,” he said. “I’ve been close in this tournament with a fourth and a second. I definitely want to get over the line with this one.
“The SA Open means a lot to me because I feel that’s the one that’s missing. I’ve ticked the box of winning the Nedbank Golf Challenge hosted by Gary Player. This is the next one that I have to tick. When I can tick this box then I know I’ve won the big four in my eyes in South Africa, namely the Alfred Dunhill Championship, the Nedbank Golf Challenge, the Joburg Open and then the SA Open. This is the win I need.”