Branden Grace blistered Harbor Town Golf Links’ front nine, zoomed past a former top-ranked player on the back nine and captured his first victory on the PGA Tour in Sunday’s (Monday in Manila) final round of the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing.
Grace shot a 5-under-par 66 to finish 9-under for the tournament, two ahead of Russell Knox and Luke Donald, who has five top-three finishes but still no victories at Harbor Town.
Donald, the 54-hole leader, started the day 7 under and ended that way, too. He made two birdies and two bogeys in a four-hole stretch — holes 7 through 10 — but never mounted anything resembling a charge.
No such problem for Grace.
Playing two groups ahead of Donald, he whittled at the lead immediately, with birdies on each of his first two holes. He bogeyed the par-3 fourth hole, but rebounded with bidies on the next two holes and another on the short, par-4 ninth, taking the lead with him to Harbor Town’s back nine. Two birdies and one bogey there gave him a 5-under 66 for his round.
That forced Donald to go birdie-birdie to match him, but the Englishman parred his way in and tied for second.
Though perhaps not a household name in the United States, Grace is 14th in the Official World Golf Ranking. Among those in the Heritage field, only No. 1 Jason Day is rated higher. And although Sunday’s victory was his first on the PGA Tour, he’s won seven European Tour events. He’s
Grace tied for seventh in last season’s Heritage—his first top 10 on the PGA Tour in his 35th start. Two weeks later, he tied for ninth at the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Match Play. He also entered the final round of last year’s U.S. Open in a four-way tie for the lead before a 1-over 71 dropped him into a tie for fourth, two shots behind champion Jordan Spieth.
Such performances gave him enough FedExCup points to accept special temporary membership for the remainder of the season, and he joined the PGA Tour a week later.
Among other notables Sunday, Day, who shared the 36-hole lead, rebounded from a disastrous third-round 79 to shoot a 3-under 68. He tied for 23rd and will retain his top spot in the world ranking.
Byrson DeChambeau, making his professional debut this week, shot a 3-under 68 and tied Kevin Na for fourth. He made $259,600
“(I)t’s been quite a journey so far these past couple of weeks,” said DeChambeau, who was the low amateur at last week’s Masters. “It’s an honor to be playing out here with these big boys, trying to do my best.”
Charley Hoffman, who let a 54-hole lead slip away at Harbor Town Golf Links in 2013, started the day one shot off the pace but closed with a 75 and tied for 14th. He was the 54-hole leader in 2013 but shot a 77 on the final day as Graeme McDowell won the Heritage.
Russell Knox shot a 67 and tied Donald for second. Jason Kokrak, playing in the final group with Donald, shot a 2-over 73 — with a double-bogey on the signature 18th hole at Harbor Town — and finished 4-under under, tied for sixth.