DeChambeau makes waves in pro debut
Grace earns first TOUR win after prophetic prediction from Els
April 17, 2016
By Kevin Prise, PGATOUR.COM
- Bryson DeChambeau finished in the top 10 in his pro debut. (Jared Tilton/Getty Images)
HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. – Branden Grace captured his first career PGA TOUR title at the RBC Heritage, firing a final-round 66 at Harbour Town Golf Links to post 9-under 275, two strokes better than Luke Donald and Russell Knox.
For more on what transpired during Sunday’s final round in Hilton Head, click here to read the Daily Wrap-up.
1. Bryson DeChambeau savored the moment as he approached the 18th green Sunday at Harbour Town. Why wouldn’t he? The patrons had broken out into hearty a ‘De-Cham-Beau!’ chant, demonstrating their appreciation for the 22-year-old making his professional debut. And he had just flushed a mid-iron to the back-center of the green, all but assuring a top-10 finish.
DeChambeau made a routine par and shot 3-under 68 in demanding conditions to move into a tie for fourth at 5 under par, certainly a strong progression from his T21 at last week’s Masters Tournament, where he was low amateur.
What does it mean for the reigning U.S. Amateur and NCAA champion? Since he finished in the top 10, his appearance in next week’s Valero Texas Open won’t count toward his seven sponsor exemptions allowed this season as a non-TOUR member (although it will count as one of 12 total TOUR events he is allowed).
And it will go a long way in his quest to earn special temporary member status on TOUR. DeChambeau would have earned 122.50 FedExCup points for his T4, and if he can reach 361 points (last season’s No. 150 number), he will be eligible to receive unlimited sponsor invites for the remainder of the season.
DeChambeau is well aware of the numbers, no doubt. But he’ll try his best not to think about them when he’s on the course.
“It’s not about that,” he said when asked about the process of earning a TOUR card. “I think it’s more about winning championships and doing my best out there, each and every shot.
“If I can accomplish that, that's all that matters. Whether it gives me my card, great. Whether it doesn't, great. I'm not worried about that. I'm trying to do the absolute best I can.”
He’s off to a good start.
Branden Grace shoots 66 to win the RBC Heritage
2. Branden Grace looked up to fellow South African Ernie Els as a kid, and he considers himself lucky to call Els a friend.
He’s also fortunate that Els, a Harbour Town regular, recommended the RBC Heritage as an event that sets up well for Grace’s game. The Pete Dye-Jack Nicklaus design places a premium on ball-control and hitting shots both ways, similar to Grace’s home course in South Africa, Fancourt Links.
Grace and Els got together for coffee earlier in the week, and Els reaffirmed his belief that Grace should expect to play well at Harbour Town.
Sure enough, Grace shook off a second-round 74 with weekend rounds of 69-66 to overcome 54-hole leader Luke Donald and capture the RBC Heritage title. Grace moves to No. 19 in the FedExCup standings and further cements his reputation as a high-level global player, now adding a TOUR title to his seven European Tour victories.
Thanks very much, Ernie.
“We went to (Els’) house for coffee on Wednesday, and he told me this is one event I’m going to win a couple times in my career,” Grace said. “It was nice to hear from a legend like that. And obviously Ernie said (tonight), ‘I told you that you were going to win it a couple of times.’ So it’s nice to hear those things.”
3. Els may have established his status as a legend in the minds of fellow South Africans such as Grace, but he’s still diligent in working on his own game – despite setbacks like a six-putt on the first hole of last week’s Masters Tournament.
The 46-year-old has gained the respect of his TOUR peers for this relentless work ethic. Case in point: despite finishing his third round early in the afternoon Saturday, he was the last man seen in the practice area that evening.
Els’ practice paid off in Sunday's final round, as he shot 5-under 66 – tied with Grace for the second-lowest round of the day – to finish the week in a tie for 14th.
For all the doubters who might have written off Els after his Masters mishap, he continues to persevere.
“You know what, I think I’m just a freak like everybody else, just like everybody else trying to get better,” Els said. “I'm just like my father trying to get another five yards and like any other guy on TOUR thinking what to do, how to feel comfortable. I'm just doing the same thing. And I think that's the love we have for the game.
“We love to get tortured and we love to play good golf. And on a day (like Sunday) you feel like, ‘Man, I could play this game again.’”
4. Luke Donald appeared in good spirits as he packed his car Sunday afternoon at Harbour Town, his wife and young daughters by his side.
Granted, he was a bit disappointed by the way things transpired during the final round, as he recorded a remarkable sixth top-3 finish in Hilton Head without a victory. After assuming the 54-hole lead, he shot a final-round 71 to fall into a tie for second place, two short of Grace.
Nonetheless, things are looking up for the former World No. 1. It’s his first top-25 of the season in 10 starts, and he shot four rounds of par or better for the first time in 2016.
He can expect to have more chances for victory at Harbour Town. One of these years, perhaps, it will be his time.
“This is a great step in the right direction,” Donald said. “I’m really positive about my game going forward, positive about the way I handled it today. To be in contention, have a chance, that’s what you want to do.”
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