Mar 1st, 2021
Emotional Grace takes the Puerto Rico Open
South African who lost father to COVID finishes brilliantly to grab title
Words: GolfPunk Photography: Getty Images
The lead had been held jointly by American Grayson Murray and local player Rafael Campos, but Vegas stormed through the field with his closing seven-under-par 65 to grab the clubhouse lead.
Coming to the short par-four 17th, Grace knew he had to do something special if he was to catch Vegas. Finding the greenside bunker with his drive, the South African then proceeded to hole his bunker shot for eagle.
“I felt I was aggressive on 17, going for the green,” said Grace.
“But I felt like I was hitting the driver well. I have a little low stinger with my driver sorted out. I played it really nicely and I was in a good position in the bunker. Every bunker I was in today, I hit a great shot. That one, I played it perfectly. Five or six feet from the hole, I knew it was in.”
Grace looked skyward as he pumped his fists in celebration, remembering his father, who passed away from COVID-19 in January.
“My dad always said I’m an aggressive player,” said a tearful Grace after his round.
“He was watching over me and in the end that was enough. I spoke to my mom this morning, and my wife told me beforehand that my dad will give me the guidance I need, and he did.”
Puerto Rico’s Rafael Campos and American Grayson Murray, who shared the overnight lead, closed with two-under 70s to share third place on sixteen-under. Americans Brice Garnett and Andrew Puttnam were a further shot back in a share of fifth.
Grace who had slipped out of the world top one hundred to 147th in the Official World Golf Ranking, missed out on the World Golf Championships event taking place at the same time in Florida. The win will hopefully see him make a significant move back up the rankings.
Elsewhere, Thomas Pieters of Belgium finished with a round of 70 for a share of fifteenth on eleven-under and England’s Ian Poulter closed with a 71 to share thirty-fifth place on seven-under