World No 14 Branden Grace loses himself in Macau aura but plans to find his way in time to stake Open title claim
South African star sees the gambling city for the first time but will be playing for high stakes on the course and not in the casinos
World number 14 Branden Grace can easily find his way round a golf course but Macau’s grandiose hotels and their labyrinth structures are a match for the best orienteers.
The South African spent 15 minutes lost in the newly opened Parisian Macao on the Cotai Strip on Tuesday after landing in the former Portuguese colony for the US$1.1 million Venetian Macao Open.
Heading to Macao for the Venetian Macao Open can't wait to see what the course has to offer. Only hear great thing and really excited!
— Branden Grace (@BrandenGrace) October 9, 2016
“I’ve never been lost in a hotel before,” said Grace as Macau lived up to everything – and more – described to him by good friend Ernie Els. “I’ve been to Vegas before but this place is phenomenal.
“Ernie talked so highly about Macau, and I’m sure I am going to have fun on and off the course. Luckily, I am from South Africa and I still think in rand terms so that keeps me grounded,” he said, referring to the temptations on the casino tables.
Grace has already won a jackpot-like sum this year with US$2.8 million in the bank thanks to a breakthrough win on US soil at the RBC Heritage on the PGA Tour and a tied-fourth finish at the PGA Championship and a tied-fifth at the US Open.
“I’ve had such a great year and ticked off so many of my goals,” Grace said as he turned this focus to his debut at the Macau Golf & Country Club on Thursday. “Now I have to sit back and work out some new ones.”
That starts with his debut at the Macau Golf & Country Club on Thursday and will follow with the CIMB Classic in Kuala Lumpur, HSBC champions in Shanghai, the Nedbank in South Africa and the Race To Dubai. In between he will also get married.
“I feel good, I feel refreshed and I have good results in China,”said Grace, who won the 2012 Volvo China Open in Tianjin.
Grace has had four top-five finishes in the majors in the past two years and feels his time as a major champion is just around the corner.
“I feel like I’m getting closer but I also feel like I’m still so far away. It’s tough getting over the last hurdle. The right swing at the right time makes all the difference.
“I’ve had a couple of great finishes this season and a couple of poor ones. I’ll be giving it a push to get back into the world’s top 10.”
This year’s Macau Open is arguably the best in its 19-year history with Grace joined by beaten Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke, flamboyant Englishman Ian Poulter, defending champion Scott Hend, of Australia, India’s Anirban Lahiri and a host of other leading players on the Asian Tour.