SUN CITY, South Africa: Home favourite Branden Grace displayed all his class and winning experience by producing a flawless final-round 66 for a one-stroke victory in the Nedbank Challenge at Sun City on Sunday (Nov 12).
The 29-old South African delighted a huge last day crowd with a bogey-free display to capture an eighth European Tour title after finishing 11 under par overall.
Half of Grace's European Tour wins have come on home soil.
Grace went into the round trailing three shots off the lead before making it a three-way tie at the top with a birdie at the 14th and then breaking clear by sinking a 40-footer for birdie at 16.
He calmly secured victory with back-to-back pars on the closing two holes to seal a first-place cheque worth €1.07 million (US$1.25 million).
"This is awesome," Grace said. "This is the one event that as a South African you want to win.
"It's Africa's major for a reason and what a special place it is. There's a lot of history and a lot of great winners on the trophy and I'm very glad to be able to put my name on the trophy, as well."
The win lifted Grace to ninth on the Race to Dubai points table and effectively bumped the sidelined Rory McIlroy outside of the top 10, ensuring the Northern Irishman will end the year outside the leading 10 for the first time in four years.
It was a much-needed glimmer of sunshine on a disappointing weekend for South African sport, after a record rugby union defeat by Ireland and their failure to reach the football World Cup.
Victory will also see Grace, who carded a major record 62 at the British Open earlier this year, move from 44th to 30th in the world rankings.
Scotland's Scott Jamieson (70) was second at 10 under par with Frenchman Victor Dubuisson (70) third on nine-under.
Jamieson went into the last day leading and looking for just a second Tour victory, after his 2012 Nelson Mandela Championship triumph in Durban.
IN AND OUT
The Scot got the start he wanted with birdies at the second and sixth hole but had his progress checked in finding a bunker at eight and taking a double bogey that handed Dubuisson the lead.
Dubuisson, however, then found himself in a three-way share for the lead on nine under par when Jamieson and Grace birdied the par-five 14th hole.
Jamieson then played a wild tee shot that cannoned off the spectator enclosure at the par-three 16th with his birdie chip-shot then finding the hole but bouncing out.
Moments later, Grace broke the deadlock in holing his long birdie putt at the same hole for the fifth birdie of his round.
Jamieson's effort earned him €712,831 - easily the biggest pay cheque of his career - and guaranteed the 33-year-old his place at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship after moving from 75th to 23rd in the Race to Dubai.
"I'm disappointed as I got off to a nice start and things were looking good but just had a little blip on number 8," he said.
"Branden got off to a fast start and all three of us were going along nicely there but then on 16, perhaps if my chip had gone in, it might have been a different story.
"I came here this week to qualify for DP World and knowing I needed top eight or something to do that so second's pretty good."
Englishman Tommy Fleetwood's final-day 71 for a share of 10th place ensured the Race to Dubai title will be decided at the DP World Tour Championship, which starts on Thursday.