Branden Grace is hoping to take inspiration from his 2015 triumph as he looks to become the first player to successfully defend the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters title.
The South African went into last year’s final round in a tie for the lead before emerging victorious by a single shot ahead of Marc Warren, but will have to overcome a two-shot deficit if he is to overtake Paul Lawrie and win again.
Grace, a six-time winner on the European Tour, has never successfully defended a title and, despite his situation being different from 2015, he is hoping the memories of a previous victory can spur him on in today’s final day.
“I try not to think about it too much the night before,” he said yesterday, after shooting a third-round 68 that helped him close the gap on leader Lawrie to two shots.
“I’ll probably be on the couch and watch a couple of highlights from last year to get into the mode and things like that. When you get on the first tee, you always get a bit of nerves going. For me, it’s normally my first putt. If the putt goes, then I’m fine. But if you’re nervous, then you’re doing something right.
“Obviously I’ve not done it (successfully defended), not a lot of people that have done it, as well. It would be great. I’m just glad with the type of golf that I’m playing and I’m giving myself a shot at retaining the trophy. It feels good, I’m playing some good golf and I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
Grace did not look like he would be in contention after he followed a birdie on the first with 14 straight pars but three closing birdies catapulted him up the leaderboard.
“Patience is the name of the game,” he said. “You can’t force things out there, especially in this wind. If you start forcing, try to go after some shots, that is when you make the mistakes. Definitely it’s just trying to make pars, and taking the opportunities when they come your way. I stayed very patient and three good birdies to give myself a chance. So that was well deserved.”
Thorbj?rn Olesen also had a strong finish with birdies at the 16th and 18th to sit alongside Grace as he seeks a second title in three months following his win at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.
“It’s great to be in the final group in your second tournament (of the season),” he said. “I’m looking forward to it and we’ll see what comes. I played great down the last nine holes, gave myself so many chances.
“I was struggling a little bit on the front nine but still, keeping it in play. So it was nice to finish with birdie. I had a good chance there on 16 for eagle but it was nice with a couple of birdies on the last three.”
Branden Grace (right) is looking to become the first player to successfully defend his Commercial Bank Qatar Masters title. PICTURE: Jayaram