Can Presidents Cup star Branden Grace succeed where others haven't

By Doug Ferguson
Published on
Can Presidents Cup star Branden Grace succeed where others haven't

NAPA, Calif. (AP) – Those traveling, song-loving "Fanatics" at the Presidents Cup had no trouble finding the right tune for Branden Grace, with a slight change of lyrics.
"Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved his best for me."
That he did.
The 27-year-old spark plug from South Africa was at his best for the International team all week at the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea.
Not only did he become only the second International player to go 5-0 for the week – Shigeki Maruyama was the other in 1998 – only one of those matches reached the 18th hole. And that might have been his defining moment. With partner Louis Oosthuizen having put his shot in the water, and the sky so dark that Grace could barely see the flag, he ripped a 3-wood into the wind and onto the edge of the green to secure a crucial point.
"He just showed that he's a world-class player, and there's no moment too big for him," Oosthuizen gushed that day. "He's going to be a really great player."
Grace already showed he has the goods, even if not everyone was paying attention.
He nearly crashed the Jordan Spieth-Dustin Johnson party at Chambers Bay, playing just as well as both of them. He was tied for the lead until one bad swing – his tee shot on the 16th that went over the railroad tracks and out of bounds – cost him. Grace also finished third at the PGA Championship, which is easy to overlook because Jason Day really didn't give anyone a chance at Whistling Straits.
Also forgotten is how Grace first arrived on the golf scene in 2012 by winning back-to-back weeks in South Africa, including a playoff victory over Ernie Els and Retief Goosen in the Volvo Golf Champions at Fancourt.
Even so, there's something about a Presidents Cup or a Ryder Cup that allows for the appearance of a breakout moment.
It just doesn't always work out that way.
Jamie Donaldson contributed three points in Europe's victory last year at Gleneagles, and he delivered the signature moment with a 9-iron to tap-in range that was the clinching point. Donaldson has finished in the top five only twice since, though the Welshman was 38 and somewhat of a late bloomer in the first place.
A better example might be Graham DeLaet.
The Canadian had one of his best weeks of golf at the Presidents Cup two years ago at Muirfield Village. DeLaet and Jason Day earned the most points for the International team, and DeLaet finished his week by holing a bunker shot to beat Jordan Spieth on the 18th hole.
As well as he strikes the ball, and as much as he stepped up his game on a big stage, DeLaet was a feature story in golf magazines and a player to watch for years to come. Expectations got even higher when he finished one shot behind in consecutive weeks at Torrey Pines and Phoenix.
He reached as high as No. 28 in the world that week, but he still hasn't won on the PGA Tour and has fallen out of the top 100.
Remember Nicolas Colsaerts, the Belgium bomber?
He made a name for himself in one match at Medinah during the 2012 Ryder Cup by making eight birdies and an eagle and single-handedly beating Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker in fourballs. Given his length and surfer-cool attitude, he looked to be a star in the making. And maybe that day will come. But since then, Colsaerts has rarely come close to winning and dropped to No. 233 in the world.
What should set Grace apart from those examples is what he already has done – this year with two victories and the strong showing at Chambers Bay and Whistling Straits, his five-win season in 2012, ending last year with a seven-shot win over Oosthuizen.
If anything has held him back, or kept him from getting more attention, it's his lack of consistency. That's a problem for just about anyone (see Billy Horschel).
"I think I get a bit streaky out there," Grace said. "The same happened in 2012. Got the one win and it led to another and five wins that season. I think the year where I didn't win, a couple of bad habits came back into my golf game, a little bit of struggling with the putting and things like that. But I've got that under control now. I think that's been the big turnaround for me so far this season."
That will determine where his game goes from here more than anything he did in a team uniform.
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