SOUTH African success at the Open has been remarkable in recent years and although Ernie Els is the most likely of the 10 who will feature at Muirfield this week, the less heralded Branden Grace is another I have my eye on.
Besides the victories of Els and Louis Oosthuizen, the rainbow nation has totalled seven top 10 finishes in the last four renewals and the 25-year-old Grace could well be their next star.
His best result at a Major came at this year’s Masters when he finished in a tie for 18th, but having enjoyed a stellar 2012, in which he became the first player in the history of the European Tour to win four events in a year, he now finds himself inside the world’s top 30.
He has followed that up with five top 10 finishes already this year and last week’s second place behind Phil Mickelson at the Scottish Open is as good an indicator as any about his links pedigree. Sporting Index have set Grace’s finishing position at 43 and I’d recommend selling that.
Martin Laird was another player who excelled in Aberdeen last week as he went on to record a fifth place finish. Laird may be yet to record a top 10 finish in a Major but, having finished tied 21st at last month’s US Open, he has now broken into the world’s top 50 again.
His only other top five finish of the season was at the Valero Texas Open where he held off the challenge of Rory McIlroy to claim only the third PGA Tour title of his career. The Scot showed terrific mental strength on the fourth day, and although he has played in America since the age of 17, he will be more used than most to the Muirfield course as he showed at last week’s Scottish Open.
With a finishing position prediction of 46-49 with Sporting Index, he looks a decent sell.
Sell Branden Grace finishing position at 43 with Sporting Index
Sell Martin Laird finishing position at 46 with Sporting Index