Els predicts bright future for Grace

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Branden Grace of South Africa plays off the third tee during the third round of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.

St Andrews, United Kingdom – Reigning British Open champion Ernie Els predicts compatriot Branden Grace, and leader by four shots in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, to one day join him in capturing golf's oldest Major.

Grace, 24 continued his domination of the Scottish event adding a third round 69 at Carnoustie on Saturday to move to 20-under par in the $US 5million event.

He heads to the final round, and the chance of securing the $800,000 first prize four clear of Denmark's Thorbjorn Olesen, who carded a 68 to move to 16-under par.

US Ryder Cup player Dustin Johnson recorded a 67 on the Old Course at St. Andrews to move to six-under par and tied in 43rd place with Ryder Cup winner Martin Kaymer who added a 69 also at St. Andrews.

Another European Ryder Cup team member, Sweden's Peter Hanson, carded a 69 for a five under par tally but missing the five under par cut-off mark was teammate Paul Lawrie (68) at three under par.

“Today, was just a joke,” said the Scot.

Also missing the cut was defending champion Michael Hoey of Northern Ireland who signed for a third round 72 for a two-under par tally.

Grace set the European Tour alight earlier this year in winning three events in 11 appearances and arrived in Scotland after having captured a Sunshine Tour last week in Fancourt.

His third round at Carnoustie was a mix of six birdies, one bogey and a 15th hole double bogey.

And Grace's efforts this year have been so amazing Els had no hesitation in declaring he could win the Open Championship which Els won in 2002 and again this year at Royal Lytham and St. Annes.

“His game is so good Branden could well enough win an Open Championship,” said Els.

The current World No. 49-ranked Grace is a graduate from the Ernie Els Foundation which the four-time Major winner established in 1999 to help assist talented South African golfers compete more around the world.

Els got his first real sight of Grace's golfing prowess in capturing the 2007 South African Open at Port Elizabeth where Grace finished the leading amateur.

“Branden has always been a quality player, and he's really come on now,” said Els.

“So he's a world contender now; wherever he plays, he's got a chance to win now.

“He was in my Foundation, so whenever I have the opportunity, I will go down there, especially in December, we do clinics and I'll hang with the guys and so forth.

“But Branden is one of those guys that just from watching him, he's learning. He doesn't have to say much. He keeps watching and learning that way.

“So I've been pleased Branden came through my Ernie Els Foundation and we've been lucky to get some of the guys like Louis (Oosthuizen) and it's been good to see them get the break they needed.”

Els added: “He's a quality player and he's established himself here in Europe given he's now exempt for a couple of years, so he will get a lot more starts in the US now he will be top-50 after this week.

“So he can go the same way as Louis and Charl (Schwartzel) and myself.”

“I didn't play particularly well today but managed to get it around,” said Grace.

“But Carnoustie is a course that just hits you mentally. Everybody knows the name, as everbody calls it 'Carnasty'.

“However when you are playing well everything goes your way and you forget about it being tough and you turn it around to something a little bit more easier.” – Sapa-AFP


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