Grace claims Africa's major as Dunne and Lowry head to Dubai with form

Grace claims Africa's major as Dunne and Lowry head to Dubai with form
 SUN CITY, SOUTH AFRICA - NOVEMBER 12:  Branden Grace of South Africa poses with the trophy after winning the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Gary Player CC. 12 November 2017 in Sun City, South Africa.  Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images

SUN CITY, SOUTH AFRICA - NOVEMBER 12:  Branden Grace of South Africa poses with the trophy after winning the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Gary Player CC. 12 November 2017 in Sun City, South Africa.  Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images

South African Branden Grace closed with an immaculate 66 to snatch the Nedbank Golf Challenge hosted by Gary Player and move into the top 10 in the Race to Dubai.

As Shane Lowry tied for 12th but was left wondering what might have been after a week when his tally of 19 birdies was only spoilt by three double bogeys and a triple, Grace (29) thrilled the home fans by capturing the eighth European Tour title of his career and a cheque for €1,069,290. 

The final day turned out to be a thriller with the final three-ball of Grace, Victor Dubuisson and Scott Jamieson giving the fans a grandstand finish.

The trio shared the lead with four holes to play but Grace separated himself my making a 40 footer for a birdie two at the 16th to get to 11-under par and held on for a one-shot victory over Jamieson.

Frenchman Dubuisson shot 70 to finish a shot further back in third to move comfortably into the top 60 in the Race to Dubai standings who qualify for this week’s DP World Tour Championship finale in Dubai.

"This is awesome," said Grace, who hit all 18 greens in regulation. "This is the one event that as a South African you want to win. It's Africa's Major for a reason and what a special place it is.

"There's a lot of history and a lot of great winners on the trophy and I'm very glad to be able to put my name on the trophy as well.

"It's a very special week, we found out on Wednesday we're having a boy.

"I had to stay patient and I had to take the chances when they came my way. I missed a couple of short ones but I think the big key was the putt on 16."

Now ranked 29th in the world, Grace became the first home winner of the event since Trevor Immelman in 2007 but Irish golf will have to wait another year.

Lowry, who started the day seven shots behind overnight leader Jamieson on one-under par, moved swiftly up the leaderboard when he made back to back birdie fours at the ninth and 10th.

He then holed a 15 footer up the hill for a two at the 219-yard 12th to move up to eighth on four-under-par but a double bogey six the 444-yard 13th — his third double of the week to go with a triple bogey on the 14th on Thursday — proved costly.

After a birdie at the 15th, a bogey at the last denied him a top 10 finish but a 71 still gave him his fourth top 12 from his last six starts, €93,108 and a four place move to 85th in the world.

Like Paul Dunne, he will be looking to end the season on a high at Jumeirah Golf Estates this week.

Dunne fired an impressive, bogey-free 66 to share 32nd on one-over-par but slipped one spot to 15th in the rankings as Grace made a big move. 

The Greystones man — up to a career-high of 77th in the world today — will make his debut in the Dubai finale just over €326,000 behind 10th ranked Francesco Molinari in the race for the $10m Bonus Pool cash that will be shared by the top 10 money winners at the end of the season.

As for Pádraig Harrington, he ended his European Tour campaign with a 75, finishing tied 42nd on four-over.

China’s Haotong Li fired a 64 to claim fourth spot on seven-under while Race to Dubai leader Tommy Fleetwood tied for 10th and will head to Dubai knowing that only Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia can stop him from becoming European number one this season.

“I've played brilliant all year,” Fleetwood said. “I think to be in with a chance of winning The Race to Dubai, it's pretty special, really. 

“It's not a burden. I don't feel stressed about it. I don't feel anxious. I just think it’s great that I’ve got the chance to win it. And a good chance.”