Johannesburg Open: Jamie Elson misses out as Branden Grace wins by one

Jamie Elson
Jamie Elson, son of former tour player Pip, turned pro in 2003

Britain's Jamie Elson missed the chance to claim his first European Tour event by a shot as South Africa's Branden Grace hung on at the Johannesburg Open.

Midlander Elson carded a stunning nine-under-par 63 over Royal Johannesburg and Kensington's East Course to give him the clubhouse lead all afternoon.

But Grace just about kept his nerve on the back nine, parring his way in from the return to card a final round 72.

Elson's only win came on the Challenge Tour the year he turned pro in 2003.

Apart from that lone victory in the Finnish Open, the Warwickshire golfer has so far failed to fulfil the promise he showed in his amateur days when he was on the same Walker Cup team as Luke Donald and Nick Dougherty.

But that could soon change if US-educated Elson, 30, can repeat the same form he has shown in South Africa this week, picking up a cheque for £123,000 - more than double his previous biggest payday.

Already the son of former tour pro Pip is up to third in the order of merit for this year's Race To Dubai.

After carding a first day 63, Elson fell back on the second day with a 75 before a third round two-under-par 70 kept him on the fringe of contention.

But Elson bounced right back into contention with another brilliant 63, a final round that included six birdies on the front nine, including five in a row from the fourth.

He then carded seven straight pars before another birdie at the short 16th was followed by a magnificent 30-foot eagle three at the last, so nearly an albatross after his approach shot ran over the hole.

Elson, who holed a 40-foot birdie putt on the final green of the European Tour's qualifying school at the end of last year to secure his card, could then only sit and watch from the clubhouse.

But he had to settle for the runners-up spot again, just as he did in Madeira last spring, as, amid increasing tension, overnight leader Grace remained sufficiently calm.

Organisers had been forced to play catch-up for most of the tournament after thunderstorms and bad light.

But Grace, who had to return to the course to complete his third round on Sunday morning, finished the tournament on 17 under to claim his first European Tour title - and the £183,700 winner's cheque.

Tied for third, two behind Elson, were a group of six players on 14 under, Scottish duo David Drysdale and Marc Warren, and four more South Africans Jaco Van Zyl, Trevor Fisher Jnr, Dawie Van der Walt and Michiel Bothma.

Hull's Richard Finch, in contention for the opening three days, had a Sunday to forget after completing his third round with a bogey five on the 17th before then falling away badly in his final round when he shot a six-over-par 78 to finish on eight under.