George, South Africa – South Africa's Branden Grace toppled two of his home country's golfing icons, Ernie Els and Retief Goosen, in a playoff Sunday to win the Volvo Golf Champions, his second win in a row on the European Tour.
Grace birdied the first playoff hole to best Els and Goosen. He earned his first tour victory a week ago at the Joburg Open and that got him into this exclusive event, reserved for European Tour players who won European Tour events in the last year.
Sunday's win at The Links at Fancourt had to be extra special for Grace considering he came through the Ernie Els and Fancourt Foundation. Perhaps even more amazing than two wins in the three events on the 2012 European Tour schedule, is that Grace came through tour Q School just last month.
Grace, a third-round co-leader, overcame a rocky start on Sunday that included a double-bogey at three and a bogey at four. He tallied five birdies the rest of the way for a two-under 71.
Els played the last 11 holes in five-under par and signed for a six-under 67 on Sunday. Goosen was alone in the lead until an errant drive at nine led to a double-bogey and he dropped a shot at 12. He rebounded with an eagle, three birdies, all in the last four holes, to shoot a three-under 70.
The trio finished regulation at 12-under 280 and headed back to the par-five closing hole at Fancourt.
Grace and Goosen both found the short grass off the tee at 18, but Els pulled his drive into the left rough. The Big Easy had to lay up with his second and both Grace and Goosen landed in the front right portion of the green.
Els' third stopped 15 feet from the flagstick, giving him a decent chance at birdie. Goosen stubbed his chip, while Grace lagged his eagle try close. Goosen failed to make birdie, and with Grace in close, the pressure belonged to Els.
His birdie putt stayed above ground and Grace tapped in for birdie and his second win in as many weeks and a healthy, albeit early, lead in the Race to Dubai.
Third-round co-leader Nicolas Colsaerts bogeyed the last to fall out of a possible playoff. He managed a one-under 72 and finished fourth at 11-under par.
Masters champion Charl Schwartzel also had a 72 on Sunday and came in fifth at minus-10.
NOTES: This event was reserved not just for winners on last year's schedule, but also current tour members under the age of 50 with more than 10 victories are also invited...That is how Goosen and Olazabal got into the field...Next week is the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship in the United Arab Emirates, where Martin Kaymer has won the last two years...Luke Donald, Lee Westwood, Rory McIlroy, Kaymer and Tiger Woods are expected to make their season debuts.