Branden Grace was flawless on the homeward nine on Saturday on his way to a seven-under-par 65 and a two-stroke victory in the LIV Golf Invitational event in Portland, Oregon, and a $4-million payday.
With three birdies and two bogeys on the front nine, turning on just one-under 35 was not going to cut it as Mexican Carlos Ortiz was getting away at the top of the leaderboard. But Grace turned on the magic with five unanswered birdies on the back nine, including, critically, three in a row from 15 to 17 – including a chip-in birdie on 16 – to pull clear. He finished on 13-under for the 54-hole no-cut event. Patrick Reed shared third with American compatriot Dustin Johnson.
“Today was no walk in the park,” said Grace. “I was behind a majority of the day. I had to work my butt off, try to make birdies.
“I thought the birdie on 13 was huge. That hole doesn’t suit me at all with my little fade. Going in there, the trees blocked me on the left, so hit a great drive down there, had a perfect number for a three-iron, hit the three-iron to about 20 feet and managed to make the putt. Then I thought I’m really in the tournament.
“Then obviously the chip-in on 16 helped. I didn’t really think I hit that bad of a second shot and it just came out a little hotter than I expected. I hit a miraculous chip there and I was very fortunate it went in.”
Louis Oosthuizen rounded off a solid performance with a three-under 69 to finish fifth on seven-under, and Justin Harding closed with a 74 to share eighth with Matthew Wolff on three-under.
Scott Vincent of Zimbabwe finished on three-over in a share of 23rd, and Ian Snyman was in a share of 29th on six-over together with Hennie du Plessis. Charl Schwartzel was on eight-over in a share of 37th. Shaun Norris was way down in 47th place on 17-over.
In the team contest, Grace, Oosthuizen, Du Plessis and Schwartzel picked up $1.5-million between them for finishing second.