Johannesburg – Four-time European Tour winner this season, Branden Grace, says the SA Open is the one tournament every South African wants to win.
Grace will tee off as one of the favourites to lift the trophy in front of the home crowd when the European and Sunshine tour co-sanctioned event starts at Serengeti Golf and Wildlife Estate on Thursday.
“It’s very important. I think if you ask Charl (Schwartzel), Louis (Oosthuizen) or anybody, they’ll tell you that this is one event that if you’re a South African you want to win,” Grace said.
Grace, who had a single Sunshine Tour victory before this season, won the Joburg Open in January and the Volvo Golf Champions at Fancourt a week later. He then lifted the Volvo China Open in April before claiming the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in Scotland in October.
Despite Grace's distinguished victories this year, the SA Open is the one event he and 2011 Masters champion Schwartzel would both love to add to their impressive list of titles.
“This is our main event of the year and our biggest in South Africa, so for us to come back here is great if the schedule allows it,” Grace said.
“It’s a good opportunity to get your name in the history books.
“I know Charl is going to be gunning for a win this week, and, like me, he also wants to win this very badly.
“And I think if Louis were here it would have been the same situation.”
Grace returned to South Arica in September, collecting a victory at the Vodacom Origins of Golf final, and sits atop the Sunshine Tour moneylist with just over R2.4 million in earnings.
A good finish at Serengeti would go a long way in securing the money title. His closest challenger is Schwartzel, just over R750 000 behind.
“I can secure a good finish on the European Tour if I can have a good finish this week and next, and vice versa on the Sunshine Tour for finishing off the Order of Merit,” Grace said.
“I’m really looking forward to what’s to come from Thursday.
“I don’t really know what to expect, and what the crowds are going to be like, but it would be nice to see a lot of people coming out here to support. Not just myself, but all of us out here.”
Schwartzel, meanwhile has struggled to maintain the form that won him his maiden Major at Augusta, and more recently has struggled with injury.
He felt, however, that his game was not too far from putting him in contention.
“I haven’t had the best of times over the last couple of months after tearing that intercostal muscle,” said Schwartzel.
“It feels good now, but by coming back a little earlier I’ve got a few bad habits in my golf swing and consequently have started playing badly.
“So now I’m trying to fix all of it and it’s just put me back a bit.
“I haven’t been playing that well and I just haven’t been able to put four good rounds together.
“There have been signs of good rounds – just not four of them – but it’s definitely on the up.” – Sapa