Sunday, April 22, 2012


TIANJIN, April 22 - South African Branden Grace secured his third win of the year and the biggest of his career when he beat defending champion Nicolas Colsaerts of Belgium by three strokes on Sunday in the U.S. $3 million Volvo China Open, co-sanctioned by OneAsia and the European Tour.
Rounds of 67, 67, 64 and 69 gave him a 21-under par total of 267 and set a record on this new links-style course, which at 7,667 yards is one of the longest on any professional circuit. Like many links courses, however, the weather is its chief defense, and on a balmy day conditions were perfect for low scores.
Colsaerts, whose only European Tour victory came at this event last year, put in a heroic defense of his title , but his three-under 69 for the day was not enough to catch Grace. A crucial birdie on the last, however, gave him sole possession of second place and also a spot in the Volvo World Matchplay Championships next month.
A shot further back was England's Richard Finch, who closed with a 66, one ahead of Frenchman Victor Dubuisson and George Coetzee of South Africa who shared fourth.
Grace burst onto the scene in January when he won back-to-back victories in his native South Africa, beating a host of his talented countrymen and the cream of European talent to take the Joburg Open and the Volvo Golf Champions tournament.
In the latter, he and Colsaerts went head-to-head on the final day, and the pair have now forged something of a friendship as they played the final two rounds together this weekend.
"To have won three now, before May, is unbelievable," a beaming Grace said after his victory. "Now I want to win every weekend."
The 23-year-old's only blemish of the day was a bogey on the par-four fourth, but he recovered and kept his nerve for the remainder of the round.
"I stayed really calm even after the bogey," he said. "I think the experience of earlier this year really helped me a lot."
Grace said he would now shift his focus to gaining a bit more experience playing on the PGA tour as well as the Majors.
His sole Major appearance ended with him tied for 43rd in the 2009 Open Championship, but this win is likely to propel him into the world's top
"I have played one of the majors before, but a few more are the aim," he said. "I will also head to the States to try get a bit more experience there."Colsaerts felt he could have been a bit more aggressive in chasing down Grace over the last round, but was nevertheless happy with his performance."I thought I could have got little meaner on Branden today. I had a few chances," he said
" I could have closed the gap a little more. I left him a bit too much breathing space."But he admitted there was little the field could do against a player clearly in form."He played very well today and did not do anything stupid," said Colsaerts.
"He made a couple of birdies here and there which is what you want to do when you are a couple of shots ahead. He (Grace) sent everybody a statement yesterday that he was the guy that we had to go and hunt."
That said, the big-hitting Belgian was particularly pleased with his birdie on the last that gave him solo second place.
"I think it would have been a little sour to have finished tied second as I played well all week."
The man he robbed for that, Englishman Finch, enjoyed the best weekend of his career for a bumper payday after closing with a six-under 66.
"My game did not quite feel it was in the same slot as yesterday to be honest. First few holes were a bit of a scramble, but I hung in there and made a few good birdies and I am pleased with how it went overall. A 65 66 is probably the best weekend I have ever had."Of the 30 Chinese players in their national Open championship, only two made the cut.
 Huang Wenyi finished a credible five under, while 2003 winner Zhang Lianwei was a further three shots adrift.Ian Poulter, the top player in the field with a rank of 24th in the world, finished well down at 10 under for the tournament, but showed his class with a closing round of 66.Swede Peter Hanson, who finished tied for third in the U.S. Masters two weeks ago, shot the day's low score of 65 to finish at 13 under for the tournament.





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