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Golf | SA

Grace’s win making waves in US



He has as many titles to his name this year as the top three players on the Official World Golf Rankings combined, and Branden Grace is starting to attract the attention such an achievement deserves.

Grace, who last week added the Volvo China Open to his victories in the Joburg Open and the Volvo Champions in January, has moved to 66th in the world with his latest win.

In the meantime, world No 1 Rory McIlroy has just one win to his name -- the Honda Classic on the US PGA Tour -- which is the same tally as No 2 Luke Donald and No 3 Lee Westwood each have.

Donald won the Transitions Championship on the US PGA Tour, while Westwood got his first win of the year in last week’s Asian Tour event, the Indonesian Masters.

Jason Sobel, a senior writer for the Golf Channel, said, “Much like countrymen Trevor Immelman, Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen, Grace is a major up-and-coming talent. Speaking of major, those three all own major championships -- and it may not be too long before Grace joins them in that exclusive club.”

And Grace was one of the subjects of a weekly ‘round-table’ discussion online at Golf.com, which is the American magazine Sports Illustrated’s golf web presence.

While there is a residue of the persistent belief that American golf is the pinnacle of the game among some of the participants in the discussion (“Until we see him play in the US, repeatedly, he will remain an unknown. That’s Ugly American bias, but also reality. This is where the best golf is played,” wrote Michael Bamberger, a senior writer for Sports Illustrated), there is agreement that he’s someone they all want to see in action.

Said Jim Gorant, a senior editor at Sports Illustrated: “Let’s say some random American won three second-tier PGA Tour events this year, and his name rhymed with Nicki Towler. Think anyone would dismiss those as meaningless? Think if that player won the same three events that Grace did anyone would be doing anything but celebrating the guy?”

And Gorant added, “He’s starting to remind me of Martin Kaymer, who began quietly kicking it on the Euro tour a few years ago before showing up here, winning a major and becoming No 1.”

Three other senior writers chipped in. “Definitely time to take him seriously. I’m looking forward to seeing how he plays in the Opens,” said one; “Three wins isn’t a fluke. It’s a trend,” added another; and “If it’s all about winning, Grace is the hottest player on the planet,” said the third.

Joked senior writer Damon Hack: “A young and talented golfer from South Africa? I’m buying this stock immediately.”

Grace has returned for South Africa for a three-week break before he resumes his European campaign -- and, who knows, he may even take a tilt at a major.

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