HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. — Branden Grace shot 5-under-par 66 to overtake Luke Donald and win the RBC Heritage on Sunday for his first PGA Tour title and 11th worldwide victory.
Three shots behind Donald entering the day, Grace moved to the top with four birdies on his first six holes. The South African pulled three shots in front of Donald after birdies on the 12th and 13 holes.
Grace finished at 9-under 275, two shots ahead of Donald and Russell Knox. Donald shot a 71, and Knox had a 67.
Grace earned $1,062,000 and a PGA Tour exemption through the 2017-18 season. He also became the latest to rally past hard-luck leader Donald at Harbour Town Golf Links. The Englishman has finished second four times and third twice in the past eight events here.
Brandt Snedeker shot a final-round 64 to catch Donald and win in a playoff in 2011. Matt Kuchar shot a 64 in 2014, overtaking Donald for the win with a chip-in from the bunker on the 72nd hole.
Donald said Saturday after taking a one-shot lead he’d need to be aggressive and make birdies. That did not happen. He settled for pars on the opening six holes, while Grace moved in front with four birdies on the same stretch.
Donald got to 8 under with a birdie on the seventh hole, then quickly gave it back on No. 8 when he drove in the water and took bogey.
He caught Grace one final time with a ninth-hole birdie, but could not keep up with the South African.
Grace took control for good with consecutive birdies on the 12th and 13th holes to move to 10 under. He overcame a final challenge on the 16th hole, rolling in a 12-foot par putt to maintain a three-shot lead. A hole behind, Donald lipped out a birdie try. He could get no closer.
Grace has proven himself internationally and was in the mix at both the U.S. Open (a tie for fourth) and the PGA Championship (solo third) last year. He became just the second International player to go 5-0 at the Presidents Cup this past fall.
Still, he hadn’t fully made a mark on the world’s biggest stage with just one top 10, a tie for fifth at the WGC-HSBC Champions, in seven PGA Tour events and missed the cut at the Masters last week.
Now, he’s a tour winner.
Bryson DeChambeau, the former SMU star who won the NCAA and U.S. Amateur last year, tied for fourth in his first event since turning pro, four shots behind Grace after a 68. Kevin Na was tied with DeChambeau after a 69.
Top-ranked Jason Day rebounded from a season-worst 79 on Saturday with a 68 to tie for 23rd at 1 under. He now gets a week off before returning to play at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, starting on April 28. He said he’ll use the time to refresh his mind and improve his fitness, which he said got a bit loose during this last run of tournament golf.
Not that it hurt him on the course. In the past month, Day won the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the World Golf Championship’s Dell Match Play event. He tied for 10th at the Masters and shared the 36-hole lead at Harbour Town until his third-round blow up.
His finish was his third round in the 70s this week. “A lot of positive stuff” at the tournament, Day said. “I’ve just got to get back, just rest my mind, rest my body and try and get back in the swing of things.”
Divots: No 9s on this card: Ernie Els closed with a 66, his lowest round since finishing the final round of the 2013 WGC-HSBC Champions event with the same score. ... Jason Bohn closed with a 77 and finished 11 over in his first event back since his heart attack in February. ... Heard on course: When a hawk soared overhead with something in its talons on the 16th fairway, Seung-Yul Noh asked if it was a ball. “It’s a fish,” playing partner Jerry Kelly replied.