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Grace rallies to win South African Open; among three Open qualifiers

Branden Grace’s red-hot putter netted him both a comeback victory at his national Open and a spot in the final major of 2020.

Grace started the day three shots behind countryman Louis Oosthuizen at the South African Open, but he torched Rand Park on the final day for a 9-under 62 that earned the South African a three-shot win and his first worldwide victory since 2017.

“That was remarkable. I’m at a loss for words,” Grace said. “I can’t remember the last time the putter was that hot. You know I told my caddie on 16, said I’ve made six one-putts leading up to this hole on the back nine. So I’m good, this is the one I really wanted.”

Full-field scores from the South African Open

Once a fixture inside the top 50 in the world, Grace had struggled in recent months and started the week ranked No. 129. His win also earned him a spot in The Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series, with three spots available to players in Johannesburg not otherwise qualified.

Grace is now assured of making his ninth straight Open appearance. That stretch includes a T-6 finish in 2017 at Royal Birkdale, when he became the first player to shoot 62 in a major.

Joining Grace at Royal St. George’s this summer will be England’s Marcus Armitage, who holed a 20-foot birdie putt on the final green to secure solo third place and his first Open invite. The third qualifying spot went to South Africa’s Jaco Ahlers, who tied for fourth with Jack Senior but was barely ahead of Senior in the world rankings when the week began. Ahlers missed the cut in 2009 in his lone Open appearance.

The Open Qualifying Series will continue next week at the SMBC Singapore Open, with four spots available to players not otherwise qualified who finish inside the top 12 and ties.