Branden just wants to get better
Branden Grace certainly left himself with a lot of work to do if his 2013 season is to measure up to his exploits of 2012.
Four European Tour triumphs in his rookie year, along with the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit title, represented a year which no amount of superlatives can describe.
One of his titles in 2012 was the Volvo Golf Champions – a trophy which he attempted to defend this week at Durban Country Club.
An opening round of 75 all but put paid to his chances. But the 24 year-old nonetheless battled back bravely, and closing rounds of 67, 69 and 67 helped him reach 10 under par and a top-10 finish.
“It was one of those tournaments. Obviously Thursday cost me a bit, but as the week progressed I started hitting the ball better.
"Again, today, starting with a double, I didn’t really think I hit a bad shot but the ball went further than I thought and in the bush. But I fought back nicely. To be honest, I left a couple out there, but it’s still a good finish to a good week,” Grace mused.
His failure to recapture his title may be a blessing in disguise however. Hype has not been in short supply since he burst onto the scene, and Grace believes the bump back to earth of handing over one of his trophies will allow him to re-focus for his 2013 season.
“I think so. Obviously there was a lot of pressure defending my title this week, but I thought after the start I had this is quite a good defence I put in and I’ll probably finish tied-sixth or around there.
"But now I can put these things and my other wins behind me and try move forward,” the Pretoria-born Grace said.
“Obviously I want to keep playing well and to keep trying to win a couple. But the main thing is just to get up there in the world ranking, and to keep climbing it. I want to try and get into the top 30 and then maybe the top 20 after that.
“But the Presidents Cup is something that’s been on my mind for half a season now, so we’ve got half a season to go and hopefully I will have done enough by then. It’s a dream to be in there, not just for South Africans but for players from the rest of the world too, so I really want to be in that side.”
With Grace currently well inside the top 10 automatic spots for the Internationals, he looks safely on course to represent Tony Johnstone’s team at Muirfield Village later this year.
And it is a fine reflection of the unbelievable success he has enjoyed since he earned his European Tour card little over a year ago. But, in typical fashion, the modest Grace is taking it in his stride, and is simply placing the emphasis on the future.
“The success has sunk in, but also not that much. I’m the type of guy who is very down to earth, and I suppose you don’t really realise what you’ve achieved. But I just see it as wanting to get better and better, and then taking it from there,” Grace smiled.