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November 8, 2018

Branden Grace

Sun City, South Africa

Q. Your evaluation of that round?
BRANDEN GRACE: Great round to start a defence. Never easy defending a title so anything under par was pretty decent. Obviously playing with Rory, as well, so it was a good day. Couple iffy shots here and there, and the one on the par 5, but it was good. Made a nice couple of putts, as well, get a couple of birdies on the scorecard but it was a good day in all.

Q. Conditions were pretty tricky. How good was Sergio's score?
BRANDEN GRACE: That's remarkable. I would have thought there would have been maybe a 5-under, but Sergio must have played flawless golf. With that kind of score, must have made an eagle in there as well and the putting must have been good.

The golf course is in such good condition that it allows you to be aggressive into the greens and the pins, as well, and he must have taken advantage of that.

Q. Take us through the round.
BRANDEN GRACE: Very solid. I thought I gave myself some chances but I never really gave myself some great birdie chances. Made some nice putts from 25, 30 feet and never got it really close. When I did, either left it out or short, but all in all very happy with the ball-striking. Nice to keep those numbers off the scorecard, as well, and very excited for what's to come. Great way to start the defence, so good three rounds to go and take care of rest.

Q. Not too many guys under par today. How tough was it?
BRANDEN GRACE: It wasn't that it was awfully tough. There was a little bit of wind, but the wind was changing direction every single shot you were hitting.

We played a couple holes in off the left and you're thinking, okay, it's switching, take advantage of a par 5 and you're standing on the tee box and it's straight into you again.

You have to stay patient and the wind swirls a lot especially being inside of these mountains. If you look at a guy like Sergio's score today, he may take advantage of the conditions, as well. There was definitely a 4-, 5-, 6-under out there.

Q. Did you think 8-under?
BRANDEN GRACE: Golf is changing so much, you always see someone going low. Sergio knows this place and he's won here before and he's a proper ball-striker. You can see him doing well around a place like this.

Q. What was the vibe out there?
BRANDEN GRACE: It was great. Everything I expected. Great being announced as the defending champion on the first tee and getting great applause. They were there the whole day, and obviously Rory's got a lot to do with it. He's a big crowd puller, and it's great of him putting this in the schedule and give the tournament a little bit of the recognition it deserves by coming down and supporting it.

Q. Take us through the escape on 14?
BRANDEN GRACE: Disappointed I didn't make the putt. I hit a hell of a putt. I thought I made it. But yeah, it was one of those, I got it in there, I wanted to get the rules official in there because I didn't want to over step the boundaries with that. Got in there and it was one of those, close your eyes and hit as hard as you can. Just luckily to pull it off the way I did.

Anything under par on a day like today is great, especially in a title defence. Tricky at stages, not that it was really swirling hard, but all in all it was a great day.

Q. Walking off 14, you must have been delighted to escape with that.
BRANDEN GRACE: It was a little bit unfortunate the tee shot. The camera went off and it changed the shot I wanted to hit and Rory and I both got unlucky and went into the bush there. Kind of got lucky with the line of sight taking the drop, but then got a hard bounce got it into the rough. When I got there, it was from one thing led to the other. Almost from worse to worse.

Got out of it, remarkable shot. Kind of one of those, close it, hit it as hard as you can and hope for the best. In this case it paid off.

Q. Did you see blink when you saw Sergio posting 8-under on day one?
BRANDEN GRACE: Yeah, I saw him up there the whole day and thought he was 4- or 5-under and I thought, that's a great round, especially around a place like this. I just said he is a hell of a ball-striker and he's won here a couple of times before, so he knows what to do around a place like this but 8-under is a special score.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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