5th October 2012

ST ANDREWS, October 5, 2012 – South Africa’s Branden Grace is edging ever closer to the biggest win of his life after opening up a five-shot lead in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at St Andrews.

A splendid second round 67 on the Old Course, which followed his record-breaking 60 at Kingsbarns on Thursday, gave him a halfway 17-under-par total and established a comfortable gap between himself and Denmark’s Thorbjorn Olesen, who shot 69 at Carnoustie, and Sweden’s Joel Sjoholm, who had a 67 on the Old Course. South Africa’s Anton Haig is a further shot back.

Grace said: “I love the feeling of winning and I know that's what I want. If I win an event like this, I'll be right up there again. It's a nice feeling to have. At the moment my goal is just to get back into the top ten of the Race to Dubai.”

The tournament, conceived as a celebration of links golf, is played over three of the world’s best known and respected links courses - the Old Course at St Andrews, the Championship Course at Carnoustie and the highly regarded Kingsbarns Golf Links.

It did not appear to start well for Grace after a bogey at the 4th hole, but he immediately birdied the 5th and then a cluster of four more birdies from the 7th hole put his Championship challenge back on course. He survived the dangerous 17th Road Hole with a par then completed an excellent round with a birdie three on the final hole.

Now he has to overcome the challenges of Carnoustie, the most difficult of the three courses, in the next round to move him ever nearer his fourth European Tour victory of the year, following the Johannesburg Open, the Volvo Golf Championship and the Volvo China Open. Last week, he also won the Vodacom Origins of Golf pro-am event on the Sunshine Tour.

He added: “I think last week's win back home just really gave me that edge. I just want to keep going this week. I struggled a little bit in the beginning of the round. I missed a three footer for par which I was a little disappointed with, because it was my first bogey of the week so far. But then I got my first birdie and things started settling down and the putter started getting hot again.”

The big names, including ten Major Championship winners in the field, who were expected to challenge for the title showed little sign of narrowing the gap. Germany’s Martin Kaymer, who shot a 71 at Kingsbarns to be three-under for the Championship, admitted that he was feeling a little tired after the exertions of the Ryder Cup the previous weekend.

He said: “I had a fantastic experience last Sunday and obviously I'm very inspired. I'm very motivated on one hand, but you know your body is just a little tired and you have to listen to your body. It's difficult to motivate yourself sometimes. My drives and my irons, they were solid. I just couldn't get the ball in the hole. And when you never make a birdie, it's tough.”

Partnering the professionals are an enthusiastic group of talented amateur golfers, who compete for the Alfred Dunhill Links Team Championship. Hollywood stars Bill Murray, forever remembered by golf fans for his role as the greenkeeper in the film Caddyshack, and Greg Kinnear have joined rock music legends Huey Lewis and Bon Jovi drummer Tico Torres, along with a host of great sports stars, including Olympic and Paralympic gold medal heroes Michael Phelps and Oscar Pistorius.

In a strong turn-out of sports stars, Phelps and Pistorius have been joined by former Olympic rowing legends Sir Matthew Pinsent and Sir Steve Redgrave, football greats Johan Cruyff, Ruud Gullit, Alan Hansen and Jamie Redknapp, plus a strong team of cricketers in Sir Ian Botham, Allan Lamb, Brian Lara, Andrew Strauss, Steve Waugh and Shane Warne. Rugby is also represented by Schalk Brits, Morné du Plessis and Gavin Hastings.

After 36 holes, leading the Team Championship is American businessman Hugh Connerty and Thai professional Thongchai Jaidee on 21-under-par after an impressive 64 at Carnoustie. Connerty said: “ “We had a very good day. When Thongchai had a bogey, I would have a par. We were always in sync. But we really got into this situation thanks to the last five holes at St Andrews yesterday when we had eagle, birdie, eagle, birdie, eagle. I know that will be five holes that will never happen again.”

American swimmer Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian with 18 gold medals, was delighted with his round at Kingsbarns after a net hole-in-one albatross at the 337 yards, 6th hole and a net eagle at the 7th. He said: “That was a lot better than yesterday. I had some fun, cool shots, cool holes. I hit a 50 yard putt that was the longest putt I've ever hit. It was pretty incredible.”

Phelps and his partner Paul Casey had a betterball 63 which leaves them on nine-under-par and Phelps said: “Somebody actually told us what made the cut last year so we want to have a chance to play one more round together. We were a lot more relaxed and a lot more comfortable. The course was enjoyable and I tried not to find the rough too many times.”

Former Olympic rower Sir Steve Redgrave and Scotland’s Colin Montgomerie had a 66 at Kingsbarns for a 12-under-par team score. Sir Steve said: “It’s a tough course, but we did well. I think we were 77th on the team leaderboard after yesterday and we are now moving up. If we had just had a par on the hole where we had a double bogey six, we would be in the top 20 now. But we have still got St Andrews to go. I am looking for the top 20, because I want to play on Sunday.”

Scotland’s current No 1 golfer Paul Lawrie has teamed up with his 17-year-old son Craig Lawrie and they are on eight-under-par. Paul, one of the European Ryder Cup heroes from Medinah, said: “It was a pretty special day. Craig played lovely today tee to green. He played good yesterday too, but putted a bit poorly. But today, I think he was four under on his own ball. So he's done awfully well. I am very proud of him.”