Branden Grace may be on his way to adding himself into the conversation about golf's elite 20-something players.
Already a seven-time winner on the European Tour, Grace won his maiden PGA Tour title Sunday at the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. The 27-year-old fired off a five-under 66 in the final round to win by two strokes over Luke Donald and Russell Knox.
Below is a look at the results along with the prize money earnings for the event's top performers:
|2016 RBC Heritage Leaderboard, Top Payouts|
|Pos.||Player||Scores||To Par||Prize Money|
A three-time tournament runner-up and former world No. 1, Donald entered the last round with the lead but couldn't get the job done once again, settling for a fourth second-place effort.
Justin Ray of Golf Channel noted before Sunday's round that Donald had struggled to be a front-runner in the past:
Harbour Town Golf Links has been kind to Donald, who's done a commendable job around the tough track. His last victory was in the Dunlop Phoenix on the Japan Tour in November 2013, so the Englishman is due for a breakthrough.
The following birdie at the par-three seventh, courtesy of PGA Tour on Twitter, showed grit after Donald was trying to hang on with six pars to start:
Unfortunately, Donald's tee shot on the following hole found the water hazard left of the fairway, and he did well to make bogey from there. A birdie at the par-three ninth then preceded another dropped shot at the par-four 10th.
The tough closing stretch didn't allow Donald to generate any momentum. He lipped out for birdie at the par-five 15th and settled for eight pars to finish his day.
But Grace deserves a lot of credit. He was simply too tough, capitalizing on playing from off the lead with bold course management and steely putting to race out to four under par through his first nine holes.
Birdies at Nos. 12 and 13 got Grace to as low as 10 under par. His tee shot to the par-three 17th bailed out left of the water and into the right greenside bunker, leading to his only bogey of the day.
Grace didn't show any signs of nerves on the last tee, though, piping a 312-yard drive down the middle to set up a routine two-putt par. CNN's Shane O'Donoghue commented on Grace's toughness as he finished off his exceptional round:
Donald missed a lengthy birdie effort at No. 17, which dashed his hopes of winning, as he needed a birdie-birdie finish once Grace had posted nine under.
ESPN.com's Jason Sobel felt it was inevitable Grace would be a U.S. winner:
The Masters Tournament green jacket may have been more desirable, but Grace will indubitably appreciate the latest victor's spoils he collected:
It was quite a performance from Grace considering he missed the cut at the Masters and bounced back in such a big way. His visibility is bound to increase after his first stateside win as a professional.
No Laying Up had a funny reaction to Grace's swift resurgence in light of the circumstances he dealt with at Augusta National Golf Club:
Already ranked 14th in the world coming in, Grace is poised to join the likes of Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Rickie Fowler among the 20-something group that's ushering in a new, exciting era in the game.
Another reason to bank on Grace's being a factor in the years to come is how he performed on the big stage at last year's majors, with a tie for fourth at the U.S. Open and a solo third-place effort at the PGA Championship.
Speaking of someone who may soon fall into the aforementioned cluster of young guns, Bryson DeChambeau, 22, logged a tie for fourth after flashing potential at the Masters last week.
The U.S. Amateur and NCAA champion missed several putts on Sunday but still shot a three-under 68 to show there may be something special to come.
Grace posted on Twitter following his U.S. breakthrough: "Thanks for all the great [messages], what an AWESOME feeling getting it done out here!! Soooo stoked!!"
The budding, elite golfer revealed his plans to celebrate right afterward, per PGA Tour on Twitter:
Grace's compatriot, Ernie Els, sent along his congratulations, as did another South African, the legendary Gary Player:
Donald tweeted: "Felt good to be in the mix again, Congrats to Branden on a great win. Excited for the rest of the season #BridesmaidAgain #RBCheritage."
As much success as Donald had at the venue, Grace noted that he felt good coming into the week with his own positive experience to draw on.
"This is pretty much where my year kicked off last year. This put me on the map a little bit, finished top-10...I was really amped to get back to this place," said Grace, per GolfChannel.com's Will Gray.
Already hinting at his own quest for victory at the Valero Texas Open next week, DeChambeau certainly didn't lack belief in himself following his first pro start.
"It was great to get through Sunday with a 68," said DeChambeau, per Golf.com's Gary Van Sickle. "It gives me a lot of confidence going into the next few weeks. Hopefully, I can get it done next week."