Tait: Grace wins with new maturity, inspiration

Branden Grace of South Africa tees off on his way to winning the China Open golf tournament at the Binhai Lake Golf Club in Tianjin, China.

Branden Grace of South Africa tees off on his way to winning the China Open golf tournament at the Binhai Lake Golf Club in Tianjin, China.

Chalk Branden Grace’s improved play this season down to two intangibles: maturity and inspiration.

The South African earned his third win of the year with victory in the Volvo China Open. It followed wins in the Joburg Open and the Volvo Golf Champions at the start of the season. Grace has now won three of the 15 tournaments played so far on this year’s European Tour schedule, and earned over €1 million.

Not bad for a guy who at the start of the year was unsure about how he’d fare on this year’s European Tour. Grace took the 11th card at last year’s European Tour Qualifying School. He’d didn’t do so well last time he got a European Tour card.

The South African gained a ticket for the 2009 European season via the 2008 Q-School. However, he finished 148th on the money list and lost his playing rights. He’s a different player now, though.

“I think I’ve grown as a player,” Grace said. “I’ve matured a lot over the last couple of years. I do things a lot differently to the way I did things a few years ago. That’s the secret. I took it a bit for granted when I played on Tour last time. I now know what it’s all about. You have to have a purpose out here, and you have to go about it properly and do it right.

“I do things a lot more professionally. My practice is better. I pace myself better. I approach things a little bit more differently, a bit more professionally. I analyze the rounds better, take more positives out of my rounds and know what to work on to improve.

“I’m hitting the ball longer, my short game is sharper and mentally I’m stronger than what I was and it shows.”

These are heady days for South African golf. Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel have both won majors in the last two seasons, and that seems to have inspired young South Africans. JBE Kruger is another South African to have won this year. He won this year’s Avantha Masters, his first European Tour win.

Grace says Oosthuizen and Schwartzel’s major wins have had a huge influence on South African golf.

“I know Charl and Louis pretty well and I feel I’ve been dragged along by their success. Louis and I are good mates so it’s great to see them reaching big goals.

“When Louis won the Open Championship, we had played just a few weeks before and it makes you think if he can do it then anything is possible. Knowing that they can do it you feel you just need to get over that one hurdle then you know you are almost there. What Louis and Charl did in the majors definitely helped me get over the hurdle to win.”

And win he has. Again, and again and again. Don’t be surprised if the powerful South African adds a fourth this season.

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