Branden Grace fired a solid closing round of 68 to win the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek Country Club in his native South Africa by seven shots from his countryman Louis Oosthuizen.
Grace began the final round one stroke clear of Denmark’s Lucas Bjerregaard, but the Dane fell away dramatically and Grace was able to cruise to a fifth European Tour title.
"It’s special to win it wire-to-wire, more so because it’s in front of a local crowd. It was a pretty flawless round today and the perfect way to finish off an incredible tournament - a great week in the office,” he said. “It’s been a long year, a hard year, but now it’s a fairy tale ending just before Christmas.”
As many of those in contention after three rounds faltered, 2010 British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen emerged from the pack to claim second place. Andrew Johnston of England was third.
Four things we learned at the Alfred Dunhill Championship:
This was Branden Grace’s first European Tour victory since he enjoyed a stellar season in 2012, during which he claimed four titles. His last win was in another tournament sponsored by Alfred Dunhill – the 2012 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in St Andrews. This victory has pushed him back into the top-100 on the Official World Golf Ranking. He’s up to 82nd. He’s also jumped straight into sixth place on the 2015 Race to Dubai standings.
Lucas Bjerregaard of Denmark will be left licking his wounds over the Christmas break. During the final round he endured a run of holes that most handicap golfers would have been embarrassed by. The Dane started the last day only one off the lead and he was still in contention through six holes, level par for the day. But he found the water on the par-3 7th hole and racked up a triple-bogey six. That triggered a disastrous run of holes. He played his last 12 in 17-over-par and posted a back nine of 50. He dropped from second place to a tie for 49th. A day to forget.
Danny Willett fared a little better than Bjerregaard, but he too finished poorly. Having won last week at the Nedbank Golf Challenge, Willett was on great form again at Leopard Creek. He was Grace’s closest challenger for most of the final round and, with three to play he still had a chance of challenging for the win. But the Englishman played the last three holes in six-over-par: double bogey, bogey, triple bogey. He ended the week tied fourth.
Andrew Johnston of England had a great week. The European Challenge Tour graduate finished alone in third place and collected his biggest ever cheque - €103,800. He won twice on last season’s Challenge Tour to earn his place on the main circuit for 2015 and this finish proves he could be one to watch in the New Year.