MORE INTERVIEWS: Honda Classic transcripts
MARK STEVENS: Like to welcome Branden Grace, got to 5‑under today, you're playing here as a sponsor's exemption this week, want to talk about your round and we'll have a few questions.
BRANDEN GRACE: It was good. Obviously it's the start you would like to get off to on this course.
Obviously the first couple holes were nothing special, one bogey on the first five, and take it from there.
I still hit the ball pretty well. I gave myself chances, but the putter started heating up. On the 8th and 9th, I made two long bombs to be honest. I think the one on 9 was like 50‑odd foot or something which came in and that just got the round kick started.
Obviously finishing with four birdies in a row was great. You won't think of making that any day on this golf course, but like I said, gave myself chances and the putter just heated up.
Q. You birdied the Bear Trap?
BRANDEN GRACE: Yes, I did. (Laughs).
Q. What did you hear about this illustrious Bear Trap before you showed up here?
BRANDEN GRACE: Obviously I've not really seen this golf course before, or hearing about it before last week. Obviously playing in Europe, you follow the golf but you don't always know the history about the tournaments and the golf courses. I sat down with Charl last week at the Match Play and he said, listen, the four finishing holes are quite a beast out there.
So I was a little bit nervous coming here, and today I thought just, you know, what's going to happen around that corner. But I think in our favor today, with the wind and the things making those par 3s a little bit shorter than normal, and 18, as well; just had to try to give yourself some opportunities, and that's what I did. I hit four good putts in a row.
Q. Your second shot at 18, were you a little apprehensive? Did you think it would stay up?
BRANDEN GRACE: To be honest, I had to really flush a 3‑iron to get it all the way back there. I was a little bit in between distance. I told Zack, my caddie, I said maybe it's a soft little cut hybrid to make sure that I get it all the way back there. I know exactly how much that club is going to fade.
I was a little bit‑‑ foot above the ball and things like that, and just wanted to step on a 3‑iron. I had just spun out of it a little bit. I think with rain the course has had the last couple of days, the greens are pretty soft, so you would think it's going to hold up there on the right side.
Q. You're one of seven South Africans in the Top‑64; how much do you all feed off each other? How much personally do you feel you're better off for having that national, domestic competition?
BRANDEN GRACE: Yeah, I think, like you say, everybody is feeding off everybody at the moment. Obviously Sterne, Richard Sterne, has had a great couple weeks, cruising back, coming back into the Top 60. I think he's just out of the Top 50 but that's where he belongs, and with the ball‑striking that he has, that's the way he needs to play.
I think the South African guys, they always come through in pairs. It's always Retief and Ernie, and when one won a major, the other one wanted to do it as well and same with Louis and Charl the last couple of years.
One of the keys that I've played so well last year and up to this point is because of Louis. When he's always, you know, we always make jokes, listen, you're falling behind and you need to step it up a gear. When I started winning a little bit last year, I said the same to him, you're falling behind, so get up there.
That's how it goes; it's nice, when one of your friends play well, you want to play well, as well, so that's been good.
Q. It seems like many of your countrymen are making this their second home; this is becoming a South African outpost. What do you make of that and why?
BRANDEN GRACE: I just think all of us are pretty close. Obviously this is my second time out to the States. I'm going to try to come out here a lot more for now. But I think it's just we all try to stick together.
In Europe, when I got to Europe, it was always Manchester because Charl, Louis and Sterne was there. Now again, Charl and Louis are based here in Florida in West Palm, and so we all try to stick together and stick close to each other. It's kind of a little home away from home, if you can put it that way.
Q. Did you play Doral last year?
BRANDEN GRACE: Yes, I did.
Q. Was that your first kind of experience of what some might call Florida golf, the white bunkers, palms, lots of water?
BRANDEN GRACE: It was.
Q. What were your thoughts?
BRANDEN GRACE: It was awesome. It wasn't what I expected at first. I thought, always when you watch television, watching the PGA TOUR, you always see the proper grass, all green, like you said, the bunkers and things like that but I wasn't really prepared for the kikuyu or, I don't even actually know the grass they have there, bermuda think it is, the bermudagrass, I didn't really expect it.
Now obviously being over here a couple of times and getting used to the stuff, it's a lot easier now. But that was my first event in the States last year, so it's just been trying to find my feet and get the experience. This year, it's a little bit better trying to go for things.
Q. How did you hit it at the Match Play?
BRANDEN GRACE: I thought I played really good. Obviously Robert, he was 5‑under through eight holes. Doesn't matter who you are; you can't really do anything to that.
So I think up to the point where we finished, I was 2‑ or 3‑under, and you know, I played well. It's just one of those where you play well and you can lose; or you can play badly and win, so just one of those days.
Q. Did that continue for you here, that good play?
BRANDEN GRACE: Definitely. I came back afterwards at the end of the week last week and the beginning of this week, I really hit the ball well. Obviously today on the course, off the tee I wasn't as good as I was hoping I would be, but I got it in play and I got it around, which was a big key today.
Q. What is it like to go from snowballs to swaying palms?
BRANDEN GRACE: That was pretty weird to be honest. Obviously last week was a first for me. I've never seen or touched snow before, before last week. You think going to the desert ‑‑ going to play in the snow. But it's been great. Although I fell out the first round, it's a lot of nice memories made and obviously a first again.
Q. How many rounds did you get on this course before today?
BRANDEN GRACE: I came down on Monday, played 18 holes on Monday and then did nine holes with Ernie on Tuesday afternoon which was nice. It was actually the first I'm I've played with Ernie, so that was another new experience for me which was nice, so 1 1/2 rounds.
Q. Did you not come through Ernie's program?
BRANDEN GRACE: Yes, I did, but obviously with him having the schedule that he does, it's pretty hard for him to come back and all those things. Obviously we see him quite often back in South Africa, but I've never had the opportunity to play with Ernie. So this nine holes yesterday was awesome.
But I don't count the playoff where I beat them in Fancourt, so that doesn't really count as a round. (Laughter).
Q. Does the camaraderie you all share ever become awkward, as competitive as you are?
BRANDEN GRACE: Not really to be honest. We are all very competitive when you play practice rounds. There's always money games and things up for grabs and you're playing against Charl or Louis, or Ernie even. At the end of the day, we all wish the best for each other.
Like I said, we feed off of each other, so one plays well this week, the other wants to do better this week, so I think it feels really good at the moment.
Q. What other events are you planning to play in the States?
BRANDEN GRACE: Well, at the moment, I'm playing next week, and then I'm going to take a week off. I'm going to do the Arnold Palmer and then hoping for‑‑ to get a spot for Houston and then take a week off, do the Masters. Then I'm going to take a three‑week break after that and stick around in the States, maybe just head out and explore a little bit.
Then play THE PLAYERS, head back to Europe for two events, and then come back for Memorial and things like that. I really think it's quite important to play that one, especially with The Presidents Cup being there later on in the year.
Q. Is it your intention to join this tour?
BRANDEN GRACE: Yeah, definitely.
Q. How do you get there, in your eyes?
BRANDEN GRACE: Top‑50, obviously that opens a lot of doors at the moment. So you just have to keep playing well and the way that I'm doing things at the moment.
Obviously you get to play 12, a minimum of 12 events, so if I can somehow get up the cash for the last part, 125th position last year, that's the plan and just keep going from there. But this is where I want to be playing in the future.
MARK STEVENS: Thanks a lot, Branden, good luck the receipt of the week.