Golf: First USPGA Tour win for Branden Grace after RBC Heritage triumph

Branden Grace celebrates with the trophy after winning the 2016 RBC Heritage at Harbour Town Golf Links on April 17, 2016.
Branden Grace celebrates with the trophy after winning the 2016 RBC Heritage at Harbour Town Golf Links on April 17, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - Branden Grace fired seven birdies in a five-under par 66 on Sunday to surge to his first USPGA Tour victory at the RBC Heritage in Hilton Head, South Carolina.

South Africa's Grace, owner of seven European Tour titles, finished with a nine-under total of 275, two strokes ahead of Scotland's Russell Knox and England's Luke Donald - the 54-hole leader who yet again was pipped at the post on the Harbour Town Golf Links.

Donald has five top-three finishes in the Heritage, but no victories. He began the day seven-under and ended there, too, after a round that included two birdies and two bogeys in a four-hole stretch.

Grace, meanwhile, wasted no time in challenging Donald's lead, with birdies at his first two holes. He bounced back from a bogey at the fourth with birdies on the next two holes and another on the ninth to take the lead into the back nine, where he made two birdies and a bogey coming in.

It was a good turnaround for the 14th-ranked Grace, after he missed the cut at the Masters last week. He said putting was the difference, but it wasn't until he had rolled in a 10-foot birdie putt at 12th and a nine-footer at 13th that he really felt he had a victory in sight.

"When I got to 12, 13, when I made a couple of nice putts I knew I'm in there with a chance," said Grace, who finished joint-fourth at the US Open last year and third at the PGA Championship.

"That last stretch of five holes you know you can't really force things. As soon as you try to force things there it's going to backfire. You just have to stay patient and grind it and that's what I managed to do."

Knox claimed his share of second with a final-round 67. He and Donald were two shots in front of Kevin Na, who carded a 69, and Bryson DeChambeau, who closed with a 68 for his share of fourth in his professional debut.

World No.1 Jason Day of Australia, who shot himself out of contention on Saturday with a season-worst 79, finished on a solid note with a three-under par 68. Day finished tied for 23rd and will retain his world No.1 ranking as he heads into a much needed week off.