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Grace has confidence to shine in Dubai

Dream year hands record-breaker new-found belief

Gulf News

Dubai: Branden Grace’s dream return to the European Tour this year has given him the confidence to stake a claim to winning this week’s $8 million (Dh29 million) DP World Tour Championship as he eyes a top-five finish in the Race to Dubai.

The 24-year-old South African this year became the first person in European Tour history to win his first four titles in the same year. He was also the first player since Fred Couples in 1995 to follow his debut win (the Johannesburg Open) with another consecutive title the following week (at the Volvo Golf Champions in George). The honour won him the European Tour Golfer of the Month prize for January.

Grace has since followed those victories up with two international wins — the Volvo China Open in May and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in October.

He now lies sixth in the Race to Dubai with just over €2 million (Dh9.4 million) in prize money, about €180,000 short of Ian Poulter. And Grace has the chance to break into the top five with a strong finish at the Jumeirah Golf Estates Earth Course from Thursday.

It’s all a far cry from the disappointment of 2009, when he lost his European Tour card and had to revert to the Challenge Tour before re-qualifying in 2012.

“Now I believe that I can play and that I can win here,” said the world No 38. “It’s nice to get the four wins and I’m really looking forward to what’s to come.

“I think this is where I belong now and this is where I can see myself playing maybe more on a regular basis — playing in events where the top-50 in the world is at.

“I think a year like this, you can’t forget, it’s literally been a dream year. There’s a lot of events now that I can look forward to playing and look forward to winning.

“I hope I can continue this form into next season, but it’s not over yet. There’s still this week.

“This is a course you’re going to have grind out. If you can keep your form and your energy levels in the right position and the positive vibes up, you never know, at the end of the week you might be on top.”

Grace added of his year: “One thing led to another and after I got the confidence and all the experience from that first win, everything else just jumped into place.

“I really wanted to win outside of South Africa because there was a lot of stuff written that I might just be a South African player that can only win on home turf. When I got that win at Volvo [China Open] that was really the turning point.

“After my first season on tour fell away, I had to go back, do a couple of years on the Challenge Tour and work hard to get where I am now. I just want to keep going forward.”