Branden Grace seeking bigger things after RBC Heritage title

Publish date:

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. (AP) Branden Grace could not wait to win on the PGA Tour. And now he's looking for more - much more.

The 27-year-old South African rallied past Luke Donald at the RBC Heritage on Sunday for his 11th victory worldwide, but first on tour. He says the win gives him security and confidence that he can compete for the top trophies in the game, starting in June at the U.S. Open.

Grace outplayed a field the week following the Masters that included the world's top-ranked player in Jason Day, the PGA Championship winner, and another major titleist from last year in British Open champ Zach Johnson.

Grace accomplished it by overcoming a steady professional and five-time tour winner in Donald, who's probably the modern master at Harbour Town Golf Links with four seconds and two thirds here the past eight events.

''I'm excited,'' Grace said. ''This was the next hurdle, to try and get a win under the belt on the PGA Tour. And now that I have, I know I can win out here. I'm excited to get to the U.S. Open.''

Grace was in the mix for that crown a year ago, leading three holes from the end until he blocked his drive right - and out of bounds. That led to a double bogey and Grace finishing fourth behind winner Jordan Spieth.

Two months later, Grace was contending at Whistling Straits, site of the PGA Championship after a third-round 64 left him three behind Day. Grace wound up third.

It looks like Grace is ready to do what he must to compete with the world's best. Used to a hectic worldwide schedule, he said he's purchased a home in Florida to lock in a base for the PGA Tour.

''This really kind of gets you in the mood to settle down a little bit and just step into gear whenever you can,'' he said.

DECHAMBEAU THE PRO: Bryson DeChambeau clearly showed he's ready for the PGA Tour. The NCAA and U.S. Amateur champion from SMU turned pro this week at Harbour Town and was more than equal to the moment. He was tied for the lead early Saturday and, after falling back, caught fire in the final round to close with a 68, his lowest round of the week. He bettered par in three of the four rounds and tied for fourth.

DAY'S BREAK: Day capped a stellar stretch of golf with a 3-under 68 on Sunday, bouncing back after a season-worst 79 a day earlier that took him out of contention. The world's No. 1 golfer says he's taking a much-needed week off to rest and recharge from his past month where he's won twice and finished 10th at the Masters.

SOMETHING ELS: Ernie Els took gained several headlines for his stunning 9 to open play at the Masters. The Big Easy, though, showed he still knows how to play some golf, posting his lowest score since November 2013 with a 66 on Sunday at the RBC Heritage. Els, a four-time major champion, said he was moving too fast on the greens at Augusta National and a friend told him to slow down. Els took the advice and finished 2-under at Harbour Town.

DONALD'S DOLLARS: Donald won the last of his five PGA Tour wins in 2012. He's had plenty of chances to end that drought at Harbour Town with second-place finishes in 2014 and this year, and a third in 2013. Still, Donald earned $519,200 to move into second place in earnings at the RBC Heritage with $3,063,520.

TRAVELS WITH CHARLEY: Charley Hoffman struggled once again at Harbour Town when in solid position to strike. He led by two strokes after 54 holes in 2013, yet ballooned to a 77 on Sunday. He was a stroke behind Donald this year when the final four started and shot a 4-over 75 to end tied for 14th.