It was weird watching Branden Grace contend in a major and finish three hours ahead of leaders
SPRINGFIELD, N.J. – As Branden Grace’s four-footer for par on the 16th hole rolled past the hole, the setting was more befitting of an opening round of a tour event. It was a bit strange to witness barely any reaction to a guy contending to win a major, sitting just one back of Jimmy Walker at the time, and nobody felt like looking up from their smartphones to notice.
It was the nature of Grace teeing off more than two hours before the final group went out, and not re-pairing after his third-round 66 put him just five back of Walker. The majority of fans at Baltusrol Golf Club -- those who got to witness 36 holes from the leaders on a marathon day of golf on Sunday -- were following Walker, Jason Day and Henrik Stenson on the front nine at the time. A handful of fans shuffled along with Grace from the 16th green to the 17th tee after the miss.
When the South African then rinsed his tee shot in the water on the par-5 18th hole, that essentially iced his hopes. But a par on the hole gave him a 3-under 67, perhaps disappointing given how well he hit the ball on Sunday.
Four top-10 finishes in the past seven majors is an impressive feat in its own rite for Grace. Still, disappointing.
"When I tee it up now, I feel I can win a major," Grace said. "I know I can do it, hopefully eventually I can get it done. It's nice to finish the major season off nicely."
Grace had birdied three of his first seven holes in Sunday's final round. And after a birdie at the 13th hole, you thought: This guy has a chance. The leaders didn't go too low on Sunday, so if Grace had put together a couple more birdies down the stretch, who knows.
"I thought getting to 11-under-par would be a good chance," Grace said.
A 70-68-66-67 finish isn't much of a disappointment. If Grace keeps playing this type of major-caliber golf, there should be more of these chances. Albeit, with a little more fanfare than he saw on Sunday.