Grace to mix it with Europe’s best

Cape Town - Now that the dust (or champagne) has settled after Wednesday’s star-studded BMW PGA Championship pro-am, the main event promises to be the real deal.

Football trio Pep Guardiola, Paul Scholes, Michael Carrick, singer-turned-teenage heart throb Niall Horan even controversial Piers Morgan are just a sprinkling of the talent that have lent their star attraction to Europe’s flagship event which promises to be one of the best ever.

The pro field includes defending champion Alex Noren, the continent’s golden child Rory McIlroy, tempestuous Tyrrell Hatton, in-form Paul Casey and reigning money list king Tommy Fleetwood. Looking for a winner and it’s hard to search that handful. If you thought last weekend was a royal affair, golf royalty is on show at Wentworth.

The course has flip-flopped been criticism and praise in equal volumes after Ernie Els’ redesign, but many now believe it to be in perfect condition. The Big Easy will be teeing it up this week but he won’t be the Saffa to watch. No, that “honour” goes to Branden Grace fresh off his own celebrations last week (he turned 30) and his final round 62 at the AT&T Byron Nelson, which landed him a cool $400 000 and a bucket load more in confidence.

That confidence has spilled over into the bookmakers’ odds with the top-ranked South African now 17-1 to win this week. That price has Grace, who started last year’s final round tied second before fading over the last 18 holes, the joint-third favourite behind McIlroy and Fleetwood, so it’s far from a case of local patriotism getting in the way of a laying down a solid bet.

Grace’s record is solid after a top 10 last year and a share of 11th in 2015 after skipping 2016’s event and is looking to add to his tally of eight European Tour wins.

South Africa has a rich history of finishes on the first page of the leaderboard as we finally head to a flagship event where form and experience are the guiding factors for optimism rather just blind faith in the flag the player happens to represent.

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