It may irritate the tabloid press from time to time but far and away the most impressive thing about the South African contingent is that they are mostly so darned normal. No less than Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel from the latest generation of great South Africans, the 26-year-old Branden Grace is a case in point.
Grace, just in case you have not noticed, has won six times in the last three years, with two of those victories making an impact all their own at the start of this season.
True, Grace is not quite in Oosthuizen’s and Schwartzel’s lofty league in having a major under his belt but Ernie Els, for one, has said that it would not surprise him one bit were he to step up to the mark sooner rather than later. “Branden,” said Els, “could certainly win the Claret Jug. He’s got the signal advantage of having no trouble in hitting the ball under the wind. He does it naturally.”
Grace, who went through the Ernie Els Junior Foundation in his teens, was quietly delighted when those words were relayed to him. “To have a player like Ernie saying something like that means so much,” he murmured.
What will also mean a lot when it comes to this year’s Open at St Andrews is that Grace won the 2012 Alfred Dunhill Links championship over the Old Course. It wasn’t The Open, of course, but so much does the Home of Golf inspire the player that he owned to having had "goose pimples on the back of my neck” at the mere thought of walking over the Swilcan Bridge on the last afternoon.
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