Branden Grace - Quick Interview
South Africa's Branden Grace, winner of the 2012 Alfred Dunhill Links Champion at St Andrews and the 2014 Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek, looks ahead to a promising year of golf after his victory last month in the Puerto Rico Open.
Question: Congratulations on Puerto Rico. What was the secret?
Branden Grace: Patience, and a lot of it. It was a case of just waiting for it to happen. It was playing so tough every day, with a one-to-three-club wind, that you had to be patient out there, and I did that really well.
Question: Brilliant eagle-birdie finish. Have you ever finished as well?
Branden Grace: No. I've finished birdie-eagle before, but never to win a tournament.
Question: What does it mean to win this event?
Branden Grace: It's great. It gets me back on track, and in the winner's circle again. It opens a lot of doors for me for the remainder of the year. It also gets me into the Sentry Tournament of Champions on the PGA Tour at the beginning of next season. And in the bigger picture, I'm one step closer to getting back into the top 50 in the world again. That's where I want to be.
Question: Was this an emotional win after your father's death a month before?
Branden Grace: He was definitely with me in that final round. I felt him there. My wife and my mom said he'd be there watching over me, and that's what I felt. On 17, I was going back and forth in my head about whether to go for it or lay up, and I just had this thing in my head where I remember him telling me that I'm the kind of golfer who doesn't really know how to lay up. It was one of the easier decisions for me to take when I thought of that, and I just went for it.
Question: Did he play an important role in your golf career?
Branden Grace: Yes. He was the one who started me in the game. He gave me my first set of clubs. Growing up, both my mom and dad took me to wherever I needed to be to play golf. They took me to all the tournaments and gave me opportunities. It was never a case of ‘No'. It was always, ‘We'll make it happen'. If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be where I am today.
Question: What is your programme for the next few months?
Branden Grace: I took a bit of time off with the family after the win. I'll play the Valero Texas Open next, and try and get into the winner's circle there and secure that last spot for The Masters.
Question: What are your targets for 2021?
Branden Grace: Just trying to win again. It's so nice to have won, and it just reaffirms that feeling that you know what you have to do when you're in that situation. Competing in the Majors that I'm exempt for and giving myself chances there is another big goal. And then to start working my way back into the top 50, then the top 30, and also making it to the FedEx Cup Playoffs.
Question: You are the only man who has won the Alfred Dunhill Links and the Alfred Dunhill Championship.
Are these special events to you?
Branden Grace: It's obviously very special to have won both. The Alfred Dunhill Championship is a tournament I always wanted to win at Leopard Creek. It's nice to have won both, and I'll be back to hopefully get my hands on another one.
Question: You shot a course record 60 at Kingsbarns in 2012 on your way to win. What are your memories of that?
Branden Grace: It was amazing. The year 2012 was a great year for me and it felt like I couldn't do anything wrong on the golf course. At Kingsbarns, I got out there and just made birdie after birdie. It's always great to shoot a 60 in a first round, but what made it so special was that I still went on to finish the tournament with a win.
Question: You also scored a record low 62 in a Major Championship at The Open at Birkdale in 2017. What are your memories of that?
Branden Grace: It was unbelievable. I can pretty much remember everything from that round, from the first hole where I hit it to 15 feet and rolling the putt in, to the last hole. For me the most disappointing thing about that round was not making birdie on the par-five 15th, especially after hitting such a great drive there. But the putting was a big key in shooting the 62 that day. It was one of those where I hit a lot of good fairway shots and drives, and my approaches were on, but I never hit it that close to give myself reasonable chances. I think I made about three or four 40-footers that day. When the hole becomes that big it feels really easy, and before I knew it I'd shot a 62.
Question: Which was the better / more memorable of the two?
Branden Grace: I can't choose between the two. They were both very special. The first because I started with a 60, and it's still the course record at Kingsbarns, and I kept it going to win. Then shooting 62 and the lowest score in a men's Major was amazing. The 62 hasn't really sunk in yet actually. But it's amazing to know I'm in the history books for that.
Question: What would another Alfred Dunhill Links victory mean?
Branden Grace: It would be amazing. It is one of my favourite tournaments of the year to play. It was sad to miss it last year. One of my fondest memories was Mr Johann Rupert [Chairman of the Championship Committee] giving me the opportunity to invite my father to play with me a few years ago. That was such a big treat for both of us. What a great place and week, and it's great to spend time with all the amateurs and such a good bunch of people. I know everybody loves the event, and I'll definitely be back at the end of the season.