Grace relies on short game during opening 66


Another week, another South African contending on the PGA Tour.

Last month Charl Schwartzel broke through for an overtime victory at the Valspar Championship. Two weeks later, fellow countryman Louis Oosthuizen made a run through the bracket en route to a runner-up finish at the WGC-Dell Match Play.

This time it's Branden Grace, who opened with a 5-under 66 and shares the lead at the RBC Heritage with Luke Donald as he eyes his first win in the U.S. after seven European Tour victories.

Grace nearly won the U.S. Open last summer, and he is among the game's longer hitters off the tee. Thursday, though, it was Grace's short game that shined as he found just 10 greens in regulation but got up-and-down seven out of eight times.

It was a similar story last year at Harbour Town Golf Links, where Grace boasted an 87.5 percent scrambling rate en route to a T-7 finish.

"I was just grinding it out, but it was tough. This wind was swirling, and it makes it tough with those tree lines as well," Grace said. "Just try to keep the bogeys off the scorecard at a place like this. The greens are very small, so if you want to have some looks at birdie, you have to try to attack some pins."

Grace also finished third at last year's PGA Championship, and he entered this week ranked No. 14 in the world. But he missed the cut at the Masters after rounds of 75-77, a result that the 27-year-old chalked up to the difficult conditions at Augusta National moreso than any deficiency in his game.

"The ball-striking has been good. Obviously last week was such a big week and a tough week. It was brutal out there," Grace said. "It's just one of those things you just have to get over. It's the next week, so just go for it. Maybe the weekend off did me well, and I'm in for maybe a good week here."